Pros: An accessible, exciting and creative production of an interesting and relevant text.
Cons: The specificity of the place and smallness of the events may not interest everyone.
Katie is eighteen. Her life is structured. She goes to school, then orchestra practice, her boyfriend Abe meets her after, all good. But her values are in flux, contradictory. She instinctively, flippantly labels people by their race, but she needs us to believe that her parents are avid readers of The Guardian. Her body is a reward for those she deems powerful, but she sticks to a mantra of “Lots of blow jobs. Vaginal sex saved for best”. She hasn’t yet decided on the things she believes to be fundamentally true, instead she’s grasping at different ideologies, figuring out the lens through which she’s going to view the world.
Playwright Jack Thorne writes that Bunny is his “love note to Luton.”* You can hear it in the language of a vividly realised and beautifully theatrical car-on-bike chase scene; he knows these paths, these cul-de-sacs, these rabbit holes. We’re there, even if we’ve never been there. Thorne’s Luton is a place divided in two, you’ve got one town centre for white and black people, and another for Asian people. It’s a place where race and class seem indefinably but undeniably linked, where an Asian boy and a white girl wanting to take a similar path in life is surprising. When Katie’s laconic older boyfriend scraps with a spitting-mad kid in the street, the stakes are heightened because they are of different ethnicities. Katie is about to live through a hunt which will challenge her shifting values and offer her new choices.
Catherine Lamb, as Katie, gets it just right. The weight of this tricky one-woman show is on able shoulders here. She’s chatty, fun and energetic, though the energy is never wasted, always spent on moments where her movement is credible and compelling; a scene where she dances without inhibition to House of Pain’s ‘Jump Around’ catapults us back to a time in life when we felt as if something good was just on the horizon. Throughout everything, we never stop liking Katie and we also don’t pity her, not really; she might be learning things the hard way, but she possesses an interior strength. Lamb clearly enjoys storytelling, she has a way of selling gags with a look, or serving something a bit sad with a smile.
I can’t imagine a better production of this text. Lucy Curtis’s direction has Lamb literally throwing herself from one erratic teenage thought to the next. A change in lighting and we’re instantly somewhere new, following the thread of events easily. A ‘PING!’ lightbulb noise for a new thought could be cliché, but works well here for a character constantly making new observations, experiencing new revelations.
In fact, this cartoonish sense of wonder continues into the aesthetic of Lucy Weller’s design, as Simpsons-like clouds hang above Katie’s head. These begin grey and foreboding, but are soon flashed with brilliant and emotive colour. The clouds, as ever-present in this production as Luton is in Thorne’s text, float above a complicated town. When they change from one colour to the next, in quick succession, so that they almost blend together, it creates something quite beautiful. We have hope for Katie and the place she lives.
*This quote is from the introduction to Thorne’s PLAYS: ONE, published by Nick Hern Books.
Author: Jack Thorne
Director: Lucy Curtis
Producer: Fabricate Theatre
Booking Until: 27 January 2018
Box Office: 020 3841 6611
Booking Link: https://www.tristanbatestheatre.co.uk/whats-on/bunny