Herald Theatre, Aotea Centre, The Edge, Auckland

21/03/2008 - 12/04/2008

Production Details

Silo Theatre kicks off its 2008 Season of Transformation with the lacerating black comedy RABBIT, opening March 21st at the Herald Theatre, THE EDGE®.

Nina Raine has written a smart and bracing new take on the age-old battle of the sexes, where the opposing camps are lumped together in a birthday party from hell. RABBIT explores the inimitable life-force we have when we are young, and which, as we grow older, begins to elude us.

It’s Bella’s birthday. Damn it to hell, she’s 29. Dad is dying in hospital. Her ex-boyfriend is a pretentious wanker and psychological bully. None of her closest friends really know each other, but she’s decided to herd them all out to dinner for a party of sorts. Things are going badly enough, until an old flame joins the fray…

As Bella is pulled from pillar to post by thoughts and memories of her father and the torture of her vacuous twenty-something life, RABBIT explores the emotional minefield of becoming an adult. Family, identity, sexual antagonism and friendly rivalry. Pilates-abs and whitened teeth may not be all we need for interpersonal growth.

This hilarious and tender celebration of lives lived out loud brings together an all-star lineup synonymous with the history and success of Silo Theatre. Fresh from her breathtaking turn in Tom Stoppard’s The Real Thing, Claire Chitham leads a company of the country’s finest in a new look Herald Theatre, designed for the first time in a three-sided thrust configuration.

Nina Raine’s debut play work made such a visceral impact during its first production at London’s Old Red Lion Theatre in 2006 that it immediately transferred to the West End. Directed by Raine herself, the production was one of Time Out’s picks of the week for the entirety of its season and was eventually selected for the prestigious Brits Off-Broadway Festival in New York in 2007. This universally acclaimed play enabled Raine to pick up the Most Promising Playwright gongs at both the Evening Standard and Critics’ Circle Awards in 2006.

"…Completely riveting. This sharp, witty play about sex, success and self-knowledge is a must-see…" – The Stage

CLAIRE CHITHAM (The Real Thing; Outrageous Fortune)
PETER ELLIOTT (The Tutor; The Bach; Explorers)
DEAN O’GORMAN (McLeod’s Daughters; The Ocean Star)
JODIE RIMMER (The Jungle; In My Father’s Den)
MADELEINE SAMI (Some Girls; Sione’s Wedding)
EDWIN WRIGHT (Take Me Out; End of the Rainbow)

directed by OLIVER DRIVER (The Goat; Bare)

RABBIT opens on March 21st for a strictly limited season.

Bookings are available now through Ticketek on
0800 TICKETEK or at www.ticketek.co.nz

And for those of you that are a little budget conscious, we have a low-priced preview on Thursday March 20th – with all tickets available for just $20.

Embrace a theatrical transformation.


set designed by JOHN VERRYT
costumes designed by ZAMBESI
lighting designed by JEREMY FERN

Rabbiting on

Review by Frances Edmond 07th Apr 2008

Nina Raine’s play rambles to an undramatic halt.

On a stylish black and red set by John Verryt, a group of twentysomethings go round and round on the merry-go-round of the perennial clash between the genders. It’s party time, Bella (Claire Chitham) is turning 29 and friends from disparate parts of her life come together to celebrate, while in the background, unbeknown to most of her guests, her father (Peter Elliott) is dying of cancer. Richard (Edwin Wright) and Tom (Dean O’Gorman) are ex-lovers; Emily (Madeleine Sami) and Sandy (Jodie Rimmer) are her girlfriends. [More]


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Spotlight on the lives of bright young things

Review by Shannon Huse 25th Mar 2008

Silo theatre show Rabbit recreates the best kind of single girl’s night out with copious amounts of alcohol, smutty gossip with girlfriends, flirting with old flames and some drunken self-reflection. But best of all, as a sober audience member, you get to enjoy the fun hangover free.

Rabbit is a slice-of-life story about a birthday party from hell. PR chick Bella is turning 29 and struggling with the thought of getting older. She’s hired the back room of a fashionable club and got all her closest friends together to celebrate.  [More]


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Solid performances under strong direction

Review by Nik Smythe 22nd Mar 2008

As the audience convenes we witness a dolled-up career girl seated at a table, glass of wine in hand, stock still with her eye on the door as if expecting someone to walk through it, prompting us to do the same.  On opening night a one point, without any audio or visual cue that I noticed, the audience actually hushed itself right down and remained silent for some minutes before the lights shifted and the play actually began.

For her 29th birthday Bella (Claire Chitham) is throwing a party in this bar, to which she has invited all her closest friends who mostly haven’t met each other.  Guests include oldest and closest friend and doctor Emily (Madeleine Sami), sensitive male lawyer / tortured author Richard (Edwin Wright), ball-busting writer / gambling addict Sandy (Jodie Rimmer), and actually that’s it except Bella’s ex-boyfriend Tom (Dean O’Gorman) who’s turned up coincidentally and is invited to join in.

Besides the main birthday setting, a number of additional scenes take place in Bella’s memories with her father (Peter Elliot).  This is because he is dying from an inoperable brain tumour, and only Emily knows about it besides Bella.  I find it curious that the father’s name is never mentioned in the play – perhaps to minimise the gap between this man and our memories of our own parents.  Bella’s mother also is barely referred to; Rabbit is a specific distilled analysis of her relationship with her father, and his with her.

As each character enters they impart distinct first impressions, the persona they choose to express:  Bella seems shallow and insensitive, Emily ambitious and bitter, Tom boring and nice, Richard pretentious and smug, Sandy loud and crass.  As one would hope in a feature length two act play, as the wine flows they each reveal varying numbers of layers beneath their self-important noughties-cum-eighties yuppie type surfaces.  The one character who ultimately appears to exit in the same seat on the train he came in on is Bella’s father. 

The nightclub function room in which the action mainly takes place is designed by John Verryt in a kind of shiny gothic-deco style.  Black floor, black chairs, round black table, shiny black glass walls we can see ourselves in, overlaid with a giant blown-up, seemingly abstract pixellated image (a brain scan?) that glows red as the audience convenes, and alternates between red, white and a range of combinations.

Jeremy Fern’s lighting design enhances Verryt’s set nicely, adjusting the ambient focus in line with the journey of Bella’s inner psychosis.  Tama Waipara’s sound design does the same, as does the young cast’s Zambesi costuming.  The entire design team’s efforts, in being first class, are ultimately never more important than the characters on stage, as it should be. 

In Nina Raine’s potent, tightly written script there’s much to keep audience parties discussing ambitions, relationships, gender differences and their surrounding political issues into the wee hours and beyond.  There is nothing particularly exceptional about the script in terms of concept or theatrics.  It is a fly on the wall character-driven drama, often disguised as comedy when the cackling gossip fiends get their teeth stuck in.  There are certainly twists, but no great surprises – we are party to Bella’s inner turmoil along the way so that when other characters learn about it we are free to observe the reactions, unencumbered by any shock or surprise on our own part.

More of a humanist study than a story-driven narrative; there is no pretension to being original and clever in any significant way, which suggests to me the subject matter is close to the playwright’s heart.  As more than one character says in the play, on dealing with extreme emotional crisis: the clichés you always hear, as cursory and patronising as they sound, are actually true.

The play concludes with more questions asked than answered.  Obviously, the key to succeeding with this type of theatre is solid performances under strong direction.  In this respect, thanks to the cast and director Oliver Driver, the Silo’s Rabbit is indeed a success.

The new stage setting in the space is certainly an improvement: the floor area has been raised and the first two rows relegated to each side of the stage to create a three quarter round.  This partially addresses the two main handicaps of the old Herald – the vertical extreme and the unwieldy width.  It still appears quite birds-eye-viewish looking down from the top, but considerably more patrons now get to observe the play at eye level.  The clear upshot of this is: book your tickets early! 


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