By Sam Pritchard
Bella is celebrating her 29th birthday with a badly-judged collection of friends. As they get embroiled in arguments about sex and careers, her father is dying from a brain tumour and she feels she should be with him. Rabbit cuts between the sharp and well-crafted dialogue of Bella’s party and half-staged, half-imagined memories of her father.
It is an interesting proposition to watch student actors creating a world many of them are about to enter. Raine’s play is about ambitious London professionals, people holding onto to the last vestiges of their youth. They are well represented by this cast, but these are performances which don’t seem to come with too much difficulty.
The production is extremely simple and at times operates rather like a staged reading. Under these conditions, Harry Creelman as Bella and Jonathan Rhodes as her bombastic ex-boyfriend Richard do lots of the leg-work. They are in control when it comes to Raine’s wonderfully written birthday scenes, and Creelman is just as unpleasantly petulant and winningly vulnerable as her character should be.
There is one clear problem that holds Rabbit back from being a truly fantastic script. The scenes between Bella and her father are just heavy and intrusive. The way they lunge into the main action is trite and not helped by slightly clumsy blocking. Charlie Holt deserves praise for approaching the father through his intensity rather than his comparative age. However, it is plain that he has much the hardest job here, only able to gesture towards things a much older actor could do with the part.
Rabbit is more than worth a visit this week. You’ll see something new done competently and with care. The cast have a real grasp of the play, even if the territory isn’t too far from home.