If you’re looking for a near-perfect play off the West End, here it is. Rabbits, written by Joe Hampson and directed by Sadie Spencer, asks the question: what do couples really get up to behind closed doors? And, how do you keep the flame alive?
Frank (David Schall) has been married to Susan (Karen Ascoe) for 25 years. The play opens as he desperately seeks out the help of Kevin (Alex Ferns) to get rid of a particularly problematic pet that he’s acquired, an attempt by Susan to ‘reintroduce love’ into his life. Kevin, fluctuating between the insane and the hilarious with Ferns’ expert performance, assists in bringing to the fore the real, raw emotions of this tense and stifled couple.
The humour is dark, a pleasing balance between the disturbing and the comical thanks to Hampson’s skill at peppering each scene with particular, quirky details. Silly particulars are elevated to key touchstones, the way any of us might fixate on our partner’s particular foibles, even if they are, in essence, unimportant. Hampton described the play as his attempt to ‘present a normal couple in a normal relationship’, whatever that might mean, and he has well and truly succeeded – from the psychotic, the sadomasochistic, to the simple and serene, the qualities of a long and complex relationship are unfolded in a manner that is sensitive, clever and never condescending.
This is an expertly cast three-hander, with Ferns, Ascoe and Schaal operating in perfect harmony, as they jump between relationship realities. Spencer is to be commended on direction that throws in just the right amount of self-deprecating strangeness for such an unconventional story.
At the time, I couldn’t help but feel that the second vignette was a bit of a come down after such an electric opening, but overall the pacing works very well – the lows are just poignant enough not to grate, the highs laced with just enough crazy before entering the ludicrous. There was hardly a moment where I wasn’t laughing. The connection between the vignettes is open to interpretation, but certainly, the structure left plenty of room for discussion post-viewing. I am still tickled by many of the lines in this play; I’d see it again tomorrow.
Review by Christina Carè Calgaro
They say sex and death are inextricably linked…
Susan is dangerously lonely. Frank is obsessed with hats. Their marriage is on the rocks but Frank has a plan to spice things up. He’s taking their pet rabbit to be murdered – by a psychopath.
With caustic jokes and abominable intentions, this new black comedy is the stage writing debut from Joe Hampson. Best known for his work on TV and Radio, credits include: Skins (E4), The News Quiz (BBC Radio 4) and Newsjack (BBC Radio 4 Extra).
Celia Dugua in association with Park Theatre presents the World Premiere of
By Joe Hampson
Directed by Sadie Spencer
Cast includes: Alex Ferns (Legend, Tarzan, EastEnders), David Schaal (Fearless, Frontier, The InBetweeners), Karen Ascoe (My Mad Fat Diary, Peep Show).
Plays: 26 Jul – 19 Aug 2017