Review: Bunny at Tristan Bates Theatre

Jack Thorne has become something of a household name in recent years, writing for several well-known TV dramas including Skins and Shameless, and for the stage – among others a little show you might have heard of called Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. Bunny is one of his earlier works, first performed in 2010 and now revived for a second time by Fabricate Theatre following a successful run last year.

Bunny is the story of 18-year-old Katie from Luton, whose “sort of boyfriend, sort of not” Abe gets in a fight after a kid on a bike knocks his ice cream out of his hand. The fight itself is brief and disappointing – but the evening’s far from over, and it’s not long before Katie finds herself sitting in a car in a dodgy part of town with a strange man and no knickers.

Photo credit: Michael Lindall

Of course it doesn’t happen quite as abruptly as that, and Katie talks us through the whole series of events in a rapid-fire monologue that covers race, class, sex, family and a whole lot more. As the play ends, Katie’s left with a decision to make – will she continue to follow the pack in the hopes of winning their favour, or will she go her own way for once?

The story might not be a precise reflection of everyone’s adolescent experience (or at least let’s hope not) but Katie herself, with all her faults, is actually very relatable. No longer a girl but not yet a woman, she hasn’t quite figured out who she is yet, and allows other people’s opinions of her – or at least what she perceives them to be – to shape her actions. So she plays down her obvious intelligence so as not to annoy Abe; she applies to university because her dad wants her to; and she goes along with the events of this particular evening for fear of losing her companions’ respect – not realising until it’s too late that her compliance might be having the opposite effect. When things don’t go her way, she takes revenge in a variety of vindictive ways, but does so in secret so as not to reveal she actually cares about anything.

Photo credit: Michael Lindall

Jack Thorne’s vivid, compelling writing is complemented by a captivating performance from Catherine Lamb, who captures to perfection the complexities and contradictions of her character. With only an old armchair and some fluffy clouds for company, she fills the remaining space with Katie’s larger than life personality, keeping her just personable enough that we want to keep listening even though we might not like what we hear, and showing just enough vulnerability to ensure that – rightly or wrongly – we remain on her side.

Simply staged by director Lucy Curtis, Bunny‘s impact lies in its script and performance, both of which are exceptional. Fabricate Theatre was founded to create exciting and relevant theatre for young people, and Bunny certainly ticks that box – but there’s plenty here for audiences of any age to enjoy. We were all young once, after all.

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Interview: Catherine Lamb, Bunny

“I first saw Bunny when I was 18 and I found it hugely inspiring; it’s a very funny and thought provoking show. I would urge anyone to come and see it, but especially young people who perhaps don’t normally feel that theatre is really for them.”

Catherine Lamb is the founder of Fabricate Theatre, a new theatre company dedicated to creating exciting and relevant work that speaks to young people. Later this month she’ll be reprising her role as teenager Katie in Jack Thorne’s one-woman play Bunny, which transfers to the Tristan Bates Theatre for a limited run from 15th-27th January.

Photo credit: Brandon Bishop

Bunny is the story of one young girl growing up in Luton struggling to find her place in a world lacking intimacy and connection,” says Catherine. “It examines what happens when cultures collide and you find yourself in unknown territory. It is a fast, funny and ruthless look into what it is to be growing up today.

“Jack Thorne has recently been named one of theatre’s most influential people, so this is a fantastic opportunity to see one of his early pieces. The writing is outstanding. It’s just over an hour in length and is a brave and bold piece of work which doesn’t shy away from anything. The show explores many heavy topics such as racism, sexual awakening, clashing cultures and the class and education system. The audience sees all these things through the eyes of an 18-year-old girl growing up in Luton.”

The coming-of-age drama was first performed in Edinburgh in 2010, where it won a Fringe First award. “I was drawn to the play because of how much it related to me,” says Catherine. “I recognised myself and my friends in Katie as well as all the other characters. It was a piece of theatre made for and about my generation, and I found that to be not only very exciting but also quite rare.”

Catherine believes it’s her character’s imperfections that make her interesting: “I like how flawed she is. There’s a lot of ugliness in her character, but you can still empathise with her. Her confusion is something that really resonated with me. There are massive contradictions in her character, she is painfully self aware and yet utterly oblivious at the same time.

“I love playing someone who I know other young women and girls will see themselves in; I find that very exciting. Katie is witty, bold and outrageous yet extremely vulnerable. This makes her wonderfully complex and a real challenge to play.”

Catherine founded Fabricate Theatre in January 2017, motivated by a desire to make and produce her own work. “I wanted to become part of the conversation,” she explains. “I asked a good friend, Sophia Nicholson, to come on board to help with the producing and communications, and the two of us now run the company together. Our aim is to get Fabricate known for creating work that speaks to young people. We’re dedicated to creating and producing fast-paced, exciting productions that reflect and examine our young people.”

Bunny is the company’s first production, which enjoyed a successful first run last year at the White Bear Theatre. “It’s fantastic to get another go at staging the show,” says Catherine. “We had such a short rehearsal process first time around so it is lovely to be able to go back and perfect things. It’s also interesting to re-stage it to suit a new space. We are so proud of this production, so it’s lovely to have all that hard work recognised.”