thu 02/02/2023

Like Rabbits, Corn Exchange, Brighton | reviews, news & interviews

Like Rabbits, Corn Exchange, Brighton

Like Rabbits, Corn Exchange, Brighton

Bedroom role-play burrows deep in this Virginia Woolf-inspired, Lucy Kirkwood-penned dance duet

Ben Duke and Ino Riga as lovers running wild in Like RabbitsVictor Frankowski

Getting pubes in your teeth during sex is one thing. Rabbit fur is something else. The moment when Ben Duke removes a wisp of partner Ino Riga’s costume from his mouth following a particularly lusty tussle may not be planned. But it’s in keeping with this witty dance-theatre duet created by Olivier-winning playwright Lucy Kirkwood and Lost Dog.

Like Rabbits is all about the wild joy of a new relationship, the secret worlds we can access through sexual abandon, and the pressure that passion, and love, come under when reality intrudes.

Their starting point is the Virginia Woolf short story Lappin and Lapinova, in which a pair of newlyweds imagine a fantasy kingdom where they frolic together as King Rabbit and his bright-eyed silver hare. Chimerica playwright Kirkwood and choreographer/dancer Duke have contemporised the Edwardian setting, collapsed the gender roles and duly evened out the blame. Pleasingly they’ve also enlisted the expert help, amongst minimal programme credits, of a "rabbit suit hair designer" (Susanna Peretz). But they preserve the story’s strange magic, and its softly devastating message.

A man and a woman are in a bar. The woman sits rolling a cigarette (in Woolf’s story the wife is always knitting with "two little front paws dangling" while the husband has a habit of twitching his nose while eating toast). The man tries to pick her up, puffing out his chest on the dance floor, slicking a thumb across his armpit, filling the space with pheromones. She responds with a quirky come-on dance of her own, sniffing painstakingly around his contours as if he’s a buzzer game and she’s the wand. Finally she presents him with a glittering black clothes bag. It is an invitation to a duet, a challenge to fulfil her fantasy, a solicitation to get down and dirty. He slides the zip, slips a finger inside and finds… a rabbit costume.

 Uninhibited, they leap weightlessly in each other's arms

Holly Waddington’s wonderfully mangy costumes make half this show’s point. Pure passion is a precious and private thing. They may look as though they’ve been dredged from the dustbin of a drunken taxidermist, or a Narnian crack-house, but the rabbit suits release the wearers into a world of uninhibited animal connection. Wearing them, Duke and Riga leap weightlessly in each other’s arms. As the hare, Riga's arms elongate and taper and her core arches and stiffens. When he sleeps, she hangs their daytime clothes at the back of the stage as if reality is the role to be assumed or suspended. As far as she’s concerned, they won’t be needing them again.

But with a few comic lines from Kirkwood, the man betrays their collaboration with bathos. "It really hurts my legs," he says, breaking off from one of their joyfully jumped duets with trembling knees. Soon he’s reciting shopping lists and banging on about plungers and direct debits while she crouches listlessly, a lonely creature without a playmate.

Originally devised as a work in progress for the Almeida, and staged here as a one-off for the Brighton Festival, Like Rabbits deserves to tour. You wish they hadn’t gone for the stock edgy-contemporary-dance soundtrack of loud beats, semi-audible mutterings and ambient static. But with the slightness and the punch of a short story, Like Rabbits noses out a very particular truth about relationships. In the end passion, and probably love too, slump in a poacher’s brace. 

The wonderfully mangy costumes release the wearers into a world of uninhibited animal connection


Editor Rating: 
Average: 3 (1 vote)

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