Culture critic Madeline McInnis reviews Mindgame at the Belgrade, Coventry.Written by mmcinnis on 16th March 2018
REVIEW: Infinity Stage Company Presents ‘Rabbit’
Music Editor Thom Dent reviews Infinity Stage Company's Rabbit in aid of the local charity, Caring Minds
The Infinity Stage Company has a good recent history of performing excellent, modern productions, with the caveat of doing it all in the name of charity. Their latest play, an interpretation of Nina Raine’s Rabbit to raise money for local charity Caring Minds, came to the Guild earlier this week to an intimate yet nonetheless responsive crowd.
“The characters feel disgustingly real; we are not expected to like these characters or even sympathise with them
Director Alex Bell has stated that Rabbit is ‘one of the few plays I’ve read where the characters feel disgustingly real; we are not expected to like these characters or even sympathise with them.’ His love for the play stems from ‘its ability to balance the thin line between comedy and tragedy’ – an aspect which comes through all-too-well in this new interpretation of Raine’s 2006 original. Bell’s casting for Rabbit is excellent, from Fionn Creber’s thoughtful performance as Tom to a suitably commanding performance of Lucy Price’s Sandy. Catherine Roberts and Jason Timmington have great chemistry as Emily and Richard, the latter particularly cut out for his character’s braggadocios presence. The play is carried, though, by an outstanding performance from Darcy Dobson as the charismatic lead Bella – Dobson commands the stage both amidst the noisy party scenes and the intimate moments with her father (well-characterised by Edward Shock), proving her worth as an actor capable of entertaining and moving an audience.
While the staging was slightly basic (understandable for a student play), failing to impress upon first glance, the team behind Rabbit were still able to create interesting dynamics throughout the play: contrasting the spot-lit left hand side of the stage, occupied solely by Shock and occasionally Dobson; and the bright, sitcom-like right hand side. The tight dimensions of the room brought a sense of necessary claustrophobia to the action, resultant accidents such as a falling wine bottle and clear lack of space on the central coffee table dealt with well by the characters, adding to the bustle and farce while straining even more the boiling emotional tensions.
Chemistry between the actors was always going to be key to this play’s success, and happily this was on the whole a triumph. The acting was very rarely stilted (besides a wavering attempt at a Brummie accent from Timmington **NB. it has been brought to my attention that this is actually his accent - for the resultant cruel barb, I apologise**), and Bell’s cast proved extremely adept at playing that ‘thin line’ between comedy and poignancy that the director seemed determined to convey. It maintained the humour without descending into hubris, as comedy can so often fail through doing.
“Rabbit was overall a well thought-out, intelligent show
It has to be said however that Rabbit is not without its faults as a play. The script can sometimes feel a little too on-the-nose – especially with the way Raine inserts the ‘father’ plotline. The reveal at the end of the first act is predictable: audiences can easily guess without much difficulty that Tom was the ‘other man’ in Richard and Bella’s marriage. This inevitability, while not subverted in this production, is nevertheless dealt with well. Timmington’s Richard seems to second-guess the script long before he states the obvious, leaving the act hanging on a note of resignation rather than one of shock – a more realistic ending suitable to a play concerned more with humanity than with theatricality.
Rabbit was overall a well thought-out, intelligent show. Staging and scripting limitations were not just acknowledged, but used as methods of making the play all the more real. The characters are flirtatious, chatty, clever and – crucially – human, testament to Raine’s script and its superb interpretation by Bell and his actors. A thoughtful and well-executed exercise in humanity, pondering life, death, sex, gender politics and jealousy in an endlessly entertaining, yet surprisingly delicate manner.