Jack Thorne’s Bunny faces the brute facts of the real world. Its subject is endurance: Hamlet in Act One, not Act Five.
Coming from the writer of Channel 4’s Skins and Shameless, this script is clever, fast-paced and hard-hitting. The heroine is Katie (Emma D’Arcy), a sixth-former who lives in Luton. She is the play’s only mouthpiece. In a long monologue, peppered with small episodes and meditations on fellatio, we learn about her boyfriend, Abe, and see Luton reflected in her eyes. This one-woman show begins as she relates a trivial incident, where a teenage biker knocks an ice-cream from Abe’s hand; the main plot germinates here, and grows blacker with every scene.
By the looks of it, Bunny is fertile ground for many issues: youth culture, multi-culturalism, racial tensions, estates dogged by crime and poverty. Yet, had that been all, it would have become a dry piece of drama. Katie’s reaction reflects Thorne’s insight into a conflict that plagues anyone in Luton, Paris or Perth: whatever besets her, she, as most of us must, endures. Katie shrugs off her anxieties. Her humour never flags, and yet she seems on the brink of a breakdown.
Her condition is captured remarkably well by D’Arcy. Teary eyes and two upturned corners of the mouth sum up this actress: the contradiction could not be more expressive of Katie’s struggle. When she tells a joke, you notice her watery gaze. When she recalls her humiliation, still she hazily smiles. She avoids a plain caricature of a state school girl; her Katie breathes fear like a woodland animal in the wild. She totters, not walks, and lingers, not stands.
With a little more rehearsal time, Emma D’Arcy will be more than capable of carrying this gritty piece. Bunny promises a “white-knuckle ride”, and it doesn’t disappoint. There’s room for improvement, but, as the production is already delivering four-star performances, there’s potential for it to go all the way. Chase that five-star review, Bunny, you’ve almost got it in the hole.
Bunny will run in the Burton Taylor Studio from Tuesday 12th to Saturday 16th February at 9.30pm each night.
PHOTO/ Hannah Groombridge