Rabbit | Sydney Theatre Company

Rabbit | Sydney Theatre CompanyLeft - Toby Schmitz & Alison Bell. Cover - Toby Schmitz, Romy Bartz, Ryan Johnson, Alison Bell & Kate Mulvany. Photos John Love.

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Your late twenties brings with it a car-crash of realisations. Now you know who you are - and it’s not who you’d like to be. If you’ve never experienced the death of someone close to you before, this is often the time when it comes calling. Adulthood, in all it’s ugly complexity has arrived, and quite frankly, it’s not the fairytale you signed up for and you want your money back! All of this and much more is at stake in Nina Raine’s Rabbit, a tale of late twenties angst that sees the humour in it’s own self involvement.

The action revolves around Bella (Alison Bell) whose father (Geoff Morrell) is dying in hospital. In an attempt to lift her spirits - or as a supreme act of denial (or perhaps a mixture of both) - she gathers her bunch of misfit friends together at a local bar to celebrate her twenty-ninth birthday instead of keeping a bedside vigil. Bella’s friends, who are mostly strangers to each other, are all upwardly-mobile types each wrestling with their own inadequacies and insecurities. 

Emily (Kate Mulvany) is an ambitious surgeon-in-training who’s just been pipped at the post for a promotion by a woman with a disability. Richard (Toby Schmitz) who is Bella’s ex, is a successful barrister who loathes his day job and instead prefers to masquerade as a writer. Sandy (Romy Bartz) who, much to Richard’s chagrin is a real writer, seems much more interested in her sex life (and for that matter everyone else’s) than her occupation. And Tom (Ryan Johnson) another conquest of Bella’s, works in some vague area of finance that he refuses to elaborate on. Through the course of the night they awkwardly mingle, pushing each others buttons as they come to some hilarious and touching revelations about themselves and each other.

Rabbit is one of those plays that sneaks up on you. It’s a deftly crafted and beautifully observed study of human behaviour and relationships. The performances are all strong and sensitively fleshed out in a play that sees the characters glide subtly from the superficial into multi-dimensional individuals with real depth. Geoff Morrell has the most challenging part on this front, and largely, this is because he’s more of a projection and reflection of Bella’s memories rather than a flesh-and-blood force within the play. However, Morrell’s consummate skill gives his character a solidity and strength that helps to anchor the deeper emotional subtext that’s at work here. Alison Bell’s Bella is a wonderfully layered performance that moves from selfish bitch to vulnerable child and back again though a series of smooth but lightening-quick transitions that are perfectly executed. Toby Schmitz’s Richard lends just the right amount of comic relief to the piece, without it ever feeling forced. He gets the script’s killer lines and delivers them with great aplomb. Emily (Kate Mulvany), Sandy (Romy Bartz) and Tom (Ryan Johnson) provide superb support and create lively, rich characters that are infinitely watchable.

Rabbit makes for a refreshing change of pace for the main stage at the STC. It’s a production that’s brimming with life, vitality and intimacy - qualities that have been decidedly lacking in some of the more ambitious productions the company has mounted of late. And it’s a nicely chosen piece for Brendan Cowell’s main stage directorial debut. One wonders if perhaps Brendan’s own play Rabbit (which he wrote and produced without any knowledge of this one) and Nina Raine’s one wouldn’t make a great double bill for a touring production. Did I hear anyone say, Rabbits? Either way, let’s hope that plays this good keep breeding like them at the STC.


Sydney Theatre Company presents
RABBIT
by Nina Raine

Director Brendan Cowell

Venue: Wharf 1, Sydney Theatre Company | Pier 4, Hickson Road, Walsh Bay
Season: 27 November 2008 to 18 January 2009
Evenings: Tuesdays to Saturdays 8pm. Twilights: Mondays 6.30pm
Matinees: Wednesdays 1pm Saturdays 2pm
(no performances 24 & 25 December. No evening performances 31 Dec & 1 Jan)
Tickets: $62 - $77
Night with the Actors: Monday 15 December 6.30pm
Bookings: (02) 9250 1777 sydneytheatre.com

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