Rabbit, SNADS at The Exchange, Sturminster Newton

THIS isn’t really a review – it wouldn’t be fair to the six actors, who still had two rehearsals to go before opening night when I saw Toby Greenfield’s production of Nina Raine’s play Rabbit. Instead it’s an idea of what audiences might expect when they see the show at The Exchange from Thursday 19th to Saturday 21st October.

Nina Raine, a theatre director and writer, and daughter of poet Craig Raine and his wife Ann Pasternak Slater, Boris Pasternak’s niece, wrote and directed Rabbit, her first play, in 2006. It won awards. If you wonder why the play is called Rabbit, you will find out, but it won’t matter.

The main setting is a table in a London bar, where five young professionals are meeting to celebrate Bella’s 29th birthday. Side scenes are in a hospital room and outside a child’s bedroom, and they serve for Bella’s memories.

In many ways, so much is crammed in that Rabbit is like the opening scene-setting episode of a TV series which will centre on Bella’s life. It’s a whistle-stop tour of life in the early 21st century, when the traditional roles of men and women are getting jumbled, and no-one quite knows where they are (and that was 17 years ago, without the toxic complexity of today’s courtships).

Bella’s father is dying of an aggressive brain cancer, but she’s out on the town with old friends and lovers, not quite in denial. The conversation is ostensibly about the physical realities of sex, but it’s really about the age-old battle for control and possession. The language is combatively direct.

Bella’s best friend is a young doctor, Emily. She has also invited two former lovers, barrister and would-be writer Richard and something-in-the-city Tom, as well as the extravagantly voluble Sandy. She knows they won’t get on. Her evening is fuelled with wine, shots, more wine, more wine – and with poignant memories of her father saving her from imagined monsters hiding in the curtains.

This is no usual Sturminster Newton Amateur Dramatic Society fare, but then Toby Greenfield has always wanted to push the boundaries, and in this cast he is ably aided by some fine acting in what is a difficult play.

Even without all the props or night-out costumes, Alice Ralph produced a conflicted and convincing Bella, Amanda Holmes a loyal Emily, Martyn Lilley a solid Tom, George Lipop an arrogant Richard and Nicole Forbes a very recognisable Sandy, with David Phillips as the much-maligned Father.

If you want to expand your theatrical experience with a locally-made production of an interesting play, go along to see Rabbit.



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