Last night I ventured to The Front Room in Croydon (short walk from East Croydon station) for Wrong Shoe Theatre’s ‘Rabbits in the Precambrian’. Written by Josh King, the show is running from 6-15th September.
Wrong Shoe Theatre is an emerging, collaborative, ambitious theatre company consisting of young artists from across London and beyond (yes that sentence is a direct lift from the press release). ‘Rabbits of the Precambrian’ is an interesting choice of play for their second full length production at The Front Room in Croydon (where they are the resident theatre company) as many of the characters feel a lot older then the actors playing them. However, that slight casting disconnect does not detract from the overall enjoyment of the show.
This is a show that is less about rabbits, and more about faith, belief, denial and death. Josh King’s play is peppered with comedic moments that kept me engaged. There are several monologues and story-telling elements within the piece, and these can at times block the flow. The production truly comes into its own when the characters are actively interacting and engaging with each other, giving the drama and the action the opportunity to come to life.
Alexandra Octavia’s Guru opens the piece by breaking the fourth wall, immediately pulling us into the world of the story. Hers is a self-aware caricature of a guru, made to feel real by her fleeting breaks from character, when we get to glimpse behind the mask.
Jamie Patterson shines as Nick, a man who has discovered happiness by outsourcing his thinking to the Guru. This is an actor blessed with pitch perfect comic timing, delivering his lines with hilarious precision. Sometimes all it took was a facial expression to reduce us to laughter, he really is a joy to watch.
I also particularly enjoyed Olivia Noyce’s Jess, a woman whose career involves writing about death. What made her particularly compelling was the entertainment she found in death. Josh King’s character believes a good death should be funny, and Olivia Noyce is convincingly upbeat and passionate about a subject most of us find dark and depressing. I can’t help thinking Jess would make a wonderful judge for the Darwin Awards
There are lots of interesting threads within the play, as it weaves together science, moral philosophy, thought experiments, spirituality and the power of positive denial. What would we do if our entire belief system was called into question? Is it possible to avoid death by simply denying it? Is there anything that we can believe in, without a sliver of a doubt?
‘Rabbits in the Precambrian’ doesn’t provide the answers to these questions, but it does re-frame them in an entertaining and brain-tickling way. Michael Greenwood’s direction brings a lot of energy to the piece, keeping the momentum going even through some of the longer monologues. The use of space, as the show overflows in and around the audience, is clever, helping to inject energy into the scene change moments of the play.
Running until the 15th September, this is a good show to see if you want a fun night of comedy interlaced with intellectual brain-teasers. The Front Room is easy to get to from East Croydon station, so don’t let the location put you off. Personally I rather enjoyed going to the theatre by tram. Made a nice change from crossing London on the tube.