NASSIM feat. Nakkiah Lui

Once upon a time there was a city, far, far away. There was a playwright. There was a play.
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NASSIM is a play by Nassim Soleimanpour performed by Nakkiah Lui.

Nassim was the simplest and yet most heartfelt play I have ever been a part of. (Nassim is an experimental theatre experience that invited audience participation in many instances.) Of course, that is mainly because I am Iranian and I speak Farsi. Most importantly however, I am a migrant, just like Nassim. As a result, I connect with the playwright in relation to the longing featured in his self-titled play; the longing for his Home land; the longing for his Mother.

I was immediately captivated by the simplicity and honesty of the material. What a genuine way to reach out to people’s hearts and let them look inside yours: teach them a few simple, yet meaningful words from your language; get them to picture the balcony you spent your afternoons on, and let them have a chat with your beloved mother.

I feel that Nassim spoke my heart out. Here lies the difference with many artistic expressions on the experiences of the other: he didn’t speak for me. Rather, he knew how to discreetly translate the lump in my throat. Granted, he gently untied the knot and tears came streaming down my face as I watched Nakkiah Lui, read out the lines of my heart.

I chose to watch Nakkiah Lui’s performance, specifically because as a Woman of Colour, she is a strong leader of her community who speaks up for what she believes in. What I saw on her face is understanding and compassion and a genuine willingness to relate, rather than a mere tolerance of what is unfamiliar to her.

The concluding words were indeed a powerful way to end the show. It takes one moment to connect with another human. Here on this stage, before our teary eyes, Nassim has become close friends with Nakkiah. They have shared a priceless moment over words. The role reversal is bold. The burden of understanding is not on Nassim’s shoulders, as an outsider. The burden is on the actor and the audience, to get to know Nassim; to learn his language, and to listen to his stories. How fitting, to experience this experimental theatrical performance on the weekend of the national Invasion Day here in Australia, where we witness words dividing a nation.

Nassim’s mother’s Salam, tenderly carried me to my mother’s embrace, where Home is. 

As I am reflecting on this experience, Mahmoud Darwish’s poem echoes in my heart, ‘To My Mother: I must be worth my life; at the hour of my death, worth my mother’s tears.’

Rating: 5 stars out of 5 

Arts Centre Melbourne in association with Bush Theatre and Nassim Soleimanpour present


By Nassim Soleimanpour

Performed by Nakkiah Lui

Art Centre Melbourne, 27th January 2018

Mediya Rangi
About the Author
Mediya Rangi is an anthropologist and a lecturer based in Melbourne. Her research is primarily focused on culture and resistance through art and community activism.