Sunday, 21 January 2018

REVIEW: Bunny at Tristan Bates Theatre

Sparking controversy since 2010, Jack Thorne's Bunny is a challenging play on both sides of the stage. During a seventy-minute single act, audiences are taken on a rollercoaster monologue of casual violence, discrimination and shame, led by a confused but certainly outspoken schoolgirl from Luton. 

Katie (Catherine Lamb) has just turned 18 and is enjoying her first proper relationship with a guy who's older than her and black. Luckily, her parents read the Guardian, therefore open-minded enough to tolerate his ethnicity in a town where black, Asian and white people don't mix. 

Since the playwright has been frequently accused of promoting racism and social division, the delivery of these lines is vital to their interpretation as a sarcastic criticism of the current climate, rather than a way of endorsing it. 

Whereas the spectators are called to read between the lines, the performer must express the confidence of a streetwise kid whilst casually letting a wavering ego emerge. An unpleasant feeling of unworthiness is gradually carved out by Lamb through a vulnerable appearance and the uncanny ability to shrink under the weight of her own statements. 

The actor owns every inch of the stage, pacing it in a fit of excitement, before revealing the full extent of her longing to be recognised as a member of the tribe. Katie innocently stands under some glowing clouds – artfully created by designer Lucy Weller – in a bare black box where a single slipper chair serves in turn as a bench, a car seat, a sofa and many other bits of furniture.

With a nonchalant approach to sex, she gives up her dignity (and her
underwear) to a young bully, who treats her like a throwaway toy and addresses her boyfriend like a manservant. In a summer afternoon started with a futile car chase, this sudden demise turns the plot towards an unexpected finale, leaving the audience to fill in the gaps of Katie's unanswered dilemma.

Ensuring a consistent high tempo, director Lucy Curtis creates the perfect ground for Lamb's undiscussed talent in moulding a compelling character. She bravely voices the coming of age conundrums, using the same unfiltered language of youth.

Raw, punchy and often cringeworthy, Bunny is an honest cross section of the modern sub-urban jungle and the perfect debut play to support Fabricate Theatre's push to see more young people sitting in the stalls.

Review by Marianna Meloni

Rating: ★★★★★
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