Kieran Lynn’s Bunnies, directed by resident Fin Irwin, opens the autumn programme at The Bike Shed, Exeter.
The Empty House Mark Marvin Rent Subsidy Award 2011 winning combination secured the accolade (and cash), which is given to both a company and a theatre in order to improve the standard of work at a venue that could not afford the company otherwise, for its in-house production of Bunnies, a short version of which was showcased at the ‘New Blood’ Festival.
Lynn’s piece is a fairly predictable but amusing dark comedy exploring xenophobia and extremism.
Stamper (a rather ponderous Stuart Lyddon) is a farmer nostalgic for the days of yore when his land was green and plentiful. Inspired by a leaflet blaming the declining quality of life on non-indigenous species, he sets out to put things right by removing the problem.
Yep as subtle as a sledgehammer but Lynn’s piece mostly veers away from sermonising by use of devices such as comic moments, jokes and singing with music by Brian Monohan. Exploring all sides of the argument inevitably means some soapbox moments however.
His idealistic daughter Evie (a convincing performance by the wholesome Emily Spetch) just can’t subscribe to the bloody programme devised by her campaigning father. And she suffers for her beliefs.
Meanwhile her brother Max (an excellent Michael Woodman) develops from a grunting, fruit-eating, desperate-not-to-get-involved Kevin to a fascist fantasist in a murderous heartbeat.
Thomasin Marshall’s set is tremendous - the Bike Shed’s brick walls are superbly transformed to a farmhouse kitchen complete with curtained undersink areas, lines of wellies and creeper-edged grimy windows.
Main gripe? The fun silent movie-like projected scene precises and programme need a spell, grammar and correctness check quick.