Review: Rabbit

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Rabbit: a play about memory and sex. Seen through the lens of an insecure and anxious Bella (Bhav Amar), who invites her friends (seemingly all as troubled as herself), to celebrate her 29th birthday party at a bar. Written by Nina Raine, whose own autobiographical insecurities permeate the play. She is the granddaughter of Boris Pasternak, writer. Directed by Charlotte Aspden. Assistant director: Henry Skinner.

Venue for play: a pub (fittingly), two tables. Actors mingle at the bar. Father (Archie Nolan) attempts his crosswords on the second table. Is the bartender tending the bar part of the performance? Answer: yes. It is an intimate setting, which works well for the play.

Scene starts, slowly, between Bella and her father. “No!” she yells at him, as they look at the patterns of the table. The father is wearing a dressing gown. This is a memory piece, a trope that will be used throughout the play to represent Bella’s increasingly fragile mental state. Lighting and Amy Winehouse music (operated by Willa Rowan Hamilton) are used very well to show how the memory of her father destroys her – she is also feeling guilty about hosting the birthday party to begin with since her father is in hospital dying of cancer. However, the father ends up ruining everything he touches. He’s a cancer to Bella. “They can be recovered,” “They can’t be recovered,” (on remembering how to read words). “I’m going to be fine” he says. She leaves.

Ollie and Jasmine’s chemistry bring out the most unattractive, witty, and vile character traits, and fuel the disaster that is Bella’s party

Back in the bar, Bella and Emily (Honor Calvert) gossip. Topics: sexual organ of previous male partner, sexual frustrations, and work. Tom (James Porter), previous male partner, is invited to sit with them. He is shy, awkward, “works in the city,” and is portrayed exceptionally and convincingly.

Then Richard (Ollie Cochran) arrives sporting a blue shirt, velvet blazer, backpack, dress shoes. He has a past with Bella. He is boisterous, conceited, and arrogant, a writer (unpublished), and perhaps deeply insecure. “I feel like a fraud” he says, unsympathetically. As he talks with Tom it makes for an awkward but very engaging dynamic. Ollie’s performance as Richard is notably praiseworthy. Last to arrive is Sandy (Jasmine Starbuck), who describes odyssey across town, cycling, shopping. She is a barrister (loud and sometimes obnoxious). Knows Richard. Ollie and Jasmine’s chemistry bring out the most unattractive, witty, and vile character traits, and fuel the disaster that is Bella’s party.

Conversational topics meander, as the wine flows, from work, writing, sex, and success, and Bella finds herself increasingly tense, drunk, and insecure. executes Bella’s storming emotions very well, navigating both drunk attempts at humour and disastrous tragedy, coping with the control that her father still has on her. “Why am I here?” she asks her father. She is about to suffer from a nervous breakdown. “She’s a control freak,” says Richard.

Ultimately, the play is a window into memory, relationships (past and present), how they are remembered (well or not), and time. What we make with our time and how we should cope with death. “Sobering thought … well death,” says Richard.

Note: I wish there had been Bloody Mary cocktails instead of wine.

Rabbit will be performed for two more nights: Tuesday 20th and Thursday 22nd at the Head of Steam. 19:30 both days.

Illustration: Suffragette Theatre Company

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