Tenderly truthful, David Lindsay-Abaire’s examines parental grief with quiet understanding in Rabbit Hole at the Union Theatre
“We know that there’s no sensible explanation”
There’s fifty shades of grey dominating Ethan Cheek’s set design for Rabbit Hole at the Union Theatre but the chief emotion being explored here is grief rather than any kinky. The only splashes of colour come from the few items left belonging to four-year-old Danny who has tragically lost his life in an accident, leaving behind parents Becca and Howie whose lives have been essentially greyed out almost entirely.
David Lindsay-Abaire’s play is certainly heavy thematically and curiously uneventful in its plotting. But in the way that he explores how life does – and must – go on after tragedy, in the acknowledge of the sheer messiness it leaves behind, in the difficulties of the piecing back together of any sense of normality, there’s a quiet yet compelling understanding about human endurance.
As if to hammer home the point, Cheek’s other design innovation is to suspend mounds of children’s toys above the set, a sign both of what is now out of reach but also could overwhelm so easily. And leads Kim Hardy and Julia Papp as Howie and Becca deliver subtly devastating work as their grief pulls them in completely different directions, him to seek solace in home videos, her to get on with the practicalities of giving away Danny’s things, neither really able to comfort the other in this period of estrangement.
Director Lawrence Carmichael draws the audience in effectively with an intimate thrust staging and Lindsay-Abaire uses Becca’s patrician mother and rebellious sister (excellent work from both Emma Vansittart and Ty Glaser respectively) to feed a dark vein of humour into several scenes as they’re forever popping by. And the late arrival of Max Pemberton’s Jason, the teen who knocked down Danny, adds a powerful raising of the stakes as it forces a tough examination of how loss is handled and how redemption might possibly, one day, be found.