Review: Bunnies at Brewery Theatre 7/10 (Lee Callaway)
DEVELOPED by The Bike Shed Theatre company, Bunnies is at first a deceptively simple comedy. Stamper is a farmer who lives with his two children, Eva and Max, and who is frustrated with the dilapidated state of his farm. Eva tries to be helpful, but Max coasts by on a committed disinterest in anything.
Stamper then receives a pamphlet through his letterbox, detailing how foreign species of animals have ruined the local ecology, pushing out native animals and taking the resources for themselves.
Determined to return the land to what he believes was a "simpler, better way of life", Stamper decides to kill all of the named foreign species in the pamphlet, to the horror of his daughter and the shrugging indifference of his son.
As Stamper and Eva become more militant in their views (Stamper makes a rabbit hand puppet from a carcass, while Eva tries to smuggle pheasants away from the farm in briefcases), Max's veil of apathy is drawn back and he joins his father in the cause, becoming even more fanatical than his father.
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What started as an old man's ignorant attempt to reclaim the glory days of his farm becomes a wholesale slaughter of the wildlife population that threatens the family's sanity and lives.
It's hard to categorise Bunnies as a dark comedy, as its shift in tone from beginning to end is so extreme that it feels rather more like two plays than one.
It's sharply written, slightly wacky comedy gives way to bleak hysteria come the play's end and whatever laughs it may have had become dry and hollow.
Clearly meant as an allegory for the rise of Nazism, and perhaps by extension nationalistic fanaticism of any kind, the play's look also begins to change as it progresses, with props and outfits becoming more militant, darker lighting, and more ominous, aggressive music.
It doesn't work in places, with weak physical comedy in the beginning and the occasional uncertainty of tone, but it's an incredibly brave piece of theatre that's absolutely impossible to recommend to everyone.
Those who can roll with the play's punches however, may find something really special.