‘RabbitHead’ reviewed by Gordon the Optom

by May 29, 2014

‘RabbitHead’ is a dark Australian comedy, co-produced under the supervision of Georgia King. This loose interpretation of Barbara Baynton’s Gothic novel, ‘The Chosen Vessel’ – a tale of isolation and anxiety in a strange place – is the latest production from the Little y Theatre Co and Whatshesaid.

Baynton was born in the Hunter Valley 157 years ago, to poverty-stricken Irish immigrants. However, she quickly created her own fictitious, highbrow family tree, which fast-tracked her entry to ‘the Society’ of the day, a good job and eventually a rich heir for a husband – a cheating husband! Not deterred, Barbara found a surgeon with one foot in the grave, married him and used his contacts to start her writing career. Ten years later her husband died and left her a fortune, which she invested in antiques and black opals. 17 years later, she married her third husband and was happy for her last eight years of life.

This very unusual fable is showing in the Studio, at The Blue Room Theatre, 53 James Street, Northbridge.

The set has black surrounds. The floor is totally covered in 50 cms of white fairy floss. (Designer, Tessa Darcey).

        The warm voice of the narrator, Humphrey Bower, welcomes you to a small suburban house and garden.

       A small yellow bunny pops his head above the snow-like ground. This is Fluffy, best friend of quiet, loving, Violette (Violette Ayad), he cleans his whiskers and ears before his rapidly meeting his demise. Violette decides to store Fluffy in the fridge until a suitable time for the funeral. Her passive – aggressive roommate, the bitchy and uncaring Holly (Holly Garvey) who spends most of her day texting, wants the carcass out of the house as soon as possible.

       Despite their obvious differences, the girls have a five-year plan for their lives, with some exciting experiences scheduled. However, Violette’s new and very unusual, anthropomorphising boyfriend puts a spanner in the works – could their future be doomed?

At the end of the performance, the actors (and co-devisors) pointed out that because the show was so new-fangled and experimental that it was still a work in progress, and their team would appreciate some feedback. It was certainly different but perhaps too adroit, so much so that some of the audience may have gone home asking themselves ‘What was that all about?’

There was a huge amount of inspired symbolism, numerous puns and double-entendres; the script was rich and clever, but was it too subtle? I laughed aloud several times at the zany humour, but sadly was often the only one doing so.

Director, Ian Sinclair, who has always been inventive and lateral thinking, has done a brilliant job making this dark story acceptable. Fringe World Emerging Artist Award winner, Violette Ayad and Holly Garvey were perfectly matched. They say that people become like their pets, Holly proved this to be the case. Great costumes. Their performances were daring, energetic and topped off with delightful mannerisms.

As the script niftily changed from serious to light fun in a sentence, and so did Chris Donnelly’s creative lighting. Bright and colourful lighting one second and then dark and sombre the next; at one stage using only UV to create a most effective creepy mood. The lighting and DJ Catlips’ soundtrack were both controlled smoothly Donelle Gardiner.

Ingenious fun with dark undertones, but is the world ready for this yet. I loved it. Brilliant.