The dangers within

Astrid Francis: Little y Theatre Company & whatshesaid, Rabbithead

Rabbithead, Little y Theatre Co. & whatshesaid

Rabbithead, Little y Theatre Co. & whatshesaid

Rabbithead, Little y Theatre Co. & whatshesaid

Presented by Little y Theatre Company in collaboration with emerging company whatshesaid, Rabbithead takes Barbara Baynton’s 1896 Australian Gothic bush story The Chosen Vessel, which as its point of provocation presents a bleak vision of a harshly malevolent landscape populated with sinister figures preying on women in their isolation. Instead of the threat coming from outside the home as in the story, Rabbithead explores the dangers that come from within: from the person closest to you, from your unattainable desires and the tyrannical sense of entitlement instilled in the psyche by a materialist culture which insists “you’re worth it.”

Housemates Holly and Violette (Holly Garvey and Violette Ayad) are excruciatingly self-absorbed and vapid: hyper products, it seems, of their time—obsessed with their online profiles, always plugged-in and suffering from an indefinite latency period in reaching emotional maturity. Violette doesn’t even have the capacity to look after her pet rabbit. Rabbithead is left in his cage, emaciated and filthy, until Holly decides to kill him rather than take on the responsibility to care for him herself. While Holly deals with her guilt through a drug-induced anthropomorphic soul- transference with the pet rabbit (!), Violette attempts to redeem herself by caring for the batch of eggs she and her boyfriend—literally, a cockroach—have conceived.

The potential of this surrealism-driven menace is never fully realised, and character development is eschewed for camp histrionics and gyrating choreography. The deliberately oversaturated spun-candy aesthetic—a knee-deep cotton-ball covered set from which puppets and the performers emerge—is, unfortunately, a manifestation of the surface treatment of the work as a whole.

As a devised piece, director Ian Sinclair asked his actors to create characters whose values and goals were in deliberate opposition to their own. In doing so, the performers perhaps succeed too well; what we end up with are characters so alienated from their performers that they struggle to infuse them with any significance. The piece does succeed in creating some darkly fascinating moments however, accentuated by the clever and decidedly creepy sound design by local composer and DJ Catlips (Katy Campbell). One is the discovery and subsequent devouring of the hidden cockroach eggs by the ravenously carnivorous Holly/Rabbithead.

Conceptually intriguing but overwrought in delivery, Rabbithead would have benefited from nuanced characterisations and less reliance on lip-synching and street-jazz dance numbers to fill out the scenes.

The Blue Room Theatre, Little y Theatre Co. & whatshesaid: Rabbithead director Ian Sinclair, performers, devisors, co-producers Holly Garvey, Violette Ayad, narrator Humphrey Bower, design Tessa Darcey, lighting Chris Donnelly, producer Georgia King; The Blue Room Theatre, Perth WA, 27 May -14 June

RealTime issue #122 Aug-Sept 2014 pg. web

© Astrid Francis; for permission to reproduce apply to realtime@realtimearts.net

18 August 2014