Review | Rabbit Hole at The Old Mill Theatre is a Fringe World triumph

Rabbit Hole | The Old Mill Theatre | Until 4th Mar | ★ ★ ★ ★ ★  

Adapted from David Lindsay-Abaire’s Pulitzer Prize winning play for Best Drama in 2006, Rabbit Hole explores the matrix of grief and loss from the perspective of two husbands, grieving over the accidental road death of their four-year-old son, Danny.

Back in 2007, Christopher Hill (co-Director and lead actor) approached the play’s licensee, to seek permission to recast the two leads as gay husbands; this concept was originally rejected. A second approach some years ago, with new licensee MTI Australasia proved more fruitful. The company sought David Lindsay-Abaire’s approval, to which he wrote back and gave a resounding yes.

Originally the first performance was to be held in 2019 in Melbourne, but owing to Covid this was put on hold. So, now thankfully Perth audiences can marvel at this amazingly inventive theatre piece, which had its world premiere as part of Fringe World 2023.

Don’t be put off by the subject matter, for what some might consider to be a ‘dark’ subject, yet under the pen of David Lindsay-Abaire this play breaks many taboos and challenges the subject of grief and loss with both pathos and humour.

The cast delivered this in equal measures, which is no easy feat. The play’s pacing and emotional agility with the award-winning script, scored highly in both acting and direction.

In the lead role of Ben Corbett, Christopher Hill, (would be any match for a drill sergeant on the parade ground) his voice box has amazing projection, which boomed around the intimate theatre space and yet in the quieter moments of the play his agility with his voice slid back without losing intensity to resonate in the more tender moments of this piece. A true master of his craft! I feel for sure he will receive a nomination for best actor at this year’s Performing Arts WA Awards based on last night’s skillfully mesmerizing performance.

Howie Corbett, Ben’s husband is played by Cameron Leese. He’s one of the fittest actors on the circuit and his tour-de-force dialogue in the closing scene of the first act is truly amazing in both facial expressions and body movement. His fury, rage and script recall are all first class.

Effervescent with attitude probably best describes crowd favourite Erin Hegarty (co-Director) in the role of Ben’s sister, Izzy. She had all the best quips and was top notch with her punchline dialogue. The added bonus of the ‘bogan sister’ allowed for comedic breathing spaces between the dramas unfolding. Her hilarious fashion wardrobe choices of printed t’s matched her characterization and she played it to the hilt.

Valerie Henry in the role of Nat, Ben’s mother was a true delight to watch. Her dialogue involving the Kennedy clan was spot on the mark. A difficult role to play yet conveyed with such empathy and compassion of a mother caught in the crossfire between Howie and Ben, many women in the audience could relate to her emotions.

First time actress Bella Hill played the role of Jason in her debut performance. She showed great control with the script allowing the vulnerability of her character to shine through. She will definitely be one to watch out for in future productions.

Accolades must be bestowed on the master of set design, George Boyd. His tri-level set of the inside of a house was a delight from the moment you entered the theatre. It had everything and made the scenes more powerful within the cleverly defined spaces; living room, kitchen and Danny’s bedroom. Bravo George!

I’m a writer that never likes to give away the plot, I equally detest it when people say ‘Go see that play it’s great, pity she dies in the end’. I never want to fall down that Rabbit Hole (pun) but I can say this that unlike other LGBTQI+ plays of the past, like Boys in the Band and The Band Played On, this adaption of Rabbit Hole, does have a happy ending. That’s it, I won’t say anymore, now just go online and book to see this amazing work, which runs at the historic Old Mill Theatre until 4th March.

You will be rewarded!

See Rabbit Hole until 4th of March. For tickets and more information, head to The Old Mill Theatre.

 

Terry Larder is the founder of Club West (1989-2015) and in this role over those years was the director/producer/compere/drag performer. He is keen to foster goodwill and nurture new and emerging artists both on-stage and off.  He has been a writer for OIP since 2007, and has reviewed numerous shows as well as interviewed and written about Debbie Reynolds, Anthony Callea, James Morrison, Elaine Paige to name but a few. Terry also writes history articles for OIP and university publications. 

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