19th Feb 2018
David Lindsey-Adair's Rabbit Hole won the 2007 Pulitzer prize for Drama. The synopsis sounds a little bleak. A couple coming to terms with the death of their son are faced with the news that the wife's sister is pregnant, and the teenager who caused the accident that killed their son wants to meet them. You might expect therefore a rather grim exploration of a family in freefall, trying, and probably failing, to come to terms with their grief. You'd be wrong. This is a sensitive and sympathetic portrayal of a family on the verge of disintegration, each member floundering in their grief, desperate to find a way through. It is a story told with compassion and gentle humour, with characters who are carefully observed and drawn.
Under the direction of Lee Stewart this small cast don't put a foot wrong. Corinne Kilvington is utterly believable as the grief-stricken mother Becca, struggling to live in a house full of memories. A homemaker in a home that has had its heart ripped from it, she tries to cling on to normality by baking for and nurturing other members of the family, while slowly removing the too painful evidence of her son - taking his drawings down from the fridge, sending his dog to her mother, giving his clothes to charity. In contrast her husband Howie (Ryan Rowntree) clings to the memories, watching the last video of Danny at the park, reliving the day over and over. Rowntree gives a very natural and unforced performance.
As the two try to cope in their own way they find themselves pushed apart, unable to accept the other's way of grieving. Emotions naturally run high and cracks begin to appear in their relationship. Will they manage to repair themselves and each other, or will their life together fall apart?
Into this come Becca's sister and mother. Izzy (Abbi Laidler) is the younger sister: irresponsible, a little wayward, and pregnant. We see her gradually become the voice of reason in the play. Nat (Anna Snell) the girls' mother, drawing on her own experience but causes only more pain and anger with her well meaning but untimely advice. These two actors perfectly capture the difficult relationships between mother and daughter, and older and younger siblings.
Finally we meet Jason - the teenager who caused the death of their child. Ben Gettins gives a heartfelt performance as this young man on the cusp of adulthood, trying to come to terms with the consequences of his actions.
The set is clean and uncluttered, changes in lighting mark the end of each scene with precision, and carefully chosen music adds to the overall feel of the play. The cast give incredibly assured and moving performances.
This an impressive production and one of the best I have seen here. The buzz of conversation at the interval and as people were leaving the theatre suggests I am not the only person to thinks so.
Rabbit Hole runs until Sat 24th February and is definitely one to see. Tickets are just £8.00 and available on the ticket hotline 0333 666 3366 or online at www.royaltytheatre.co.uk or at the box office before the show.