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Rabbit Ears Review (originally published on Guide2Bristol.com)

The latest production by Theatre West showing at the Alma Theatre is a subtle and intriguing production, and not just for its suitably ambiguous title, Rabbit Ears.

Written by Bruce Fellows as part of the Theatre West season, many will not know what to expect from a local production performed by a cast of only three. After the first seemingly straightforward scene where Rosie’s boyfriend leaves her to go on active duty in Afghanistan the plot thickens and then twists in to quite the climax.

The venue is small and intimate, which benefits the small cast of Susie Riddell, Dan Winter and Ursula Entry. The audience is right up close and personal with the actors emotions, as is the intention, and throughout the performance you can tell that Fellows is trying to offer a glimpse of emotion that is usually too raw to be aired publicly.

The writing is subtle, and Fellows drops all sorts of hints that there may be a twist not to be expected. Rosie, performed with subtle dignity by Riddell, is not a character the audience is intended to empathise with. She talks to the clock on the wall, the only heirloom of her deceased father when alone, and hints at a dark and selfish side to her nature, whilst being openly generous and friendly with her companion in waiting Bren.

The two women are waiting at home on ‘passive service’ describes Fellows, while their respective partners are on duty. Thrust together, the show is stolen by Entry as Bren, whose nervous energy, open demeanour and subtle wit carry the audience through the long waits when all that can be heard is the clock ticking their frustration and heplessness in to near anxiety.

Winters is strong as the male figure, moving between his relationship with the two smoothly and not betraying much to the audience. His lengthy soliloquy about his time on duty is poignantly held together by the emotion he adds to the dialogue. Although we have all heard similar stories of wartime strife through cinema and theatre, being so close to the performance only added to tension, the beat of which was measured by Rosie’s clock.

The only music score is a famous Rosemary Clooney show tune, due to the fact that Rosie’s dad named her after the famous singer. The addition of Rosie singing it to Winter and forgetting the words simply adds to the realism of their situation, and ultimately wrenches on the heart strings.

Cleverly directed by Alison Comely, Artistic Director of Theatre West, it seems that in some cases she has added the light touch to the relationship between Rosie and Bren. The dialogue between the two over glossy magazines, and the sharing of a mug each of ‘rosie lee’ makes you feel like you could be sitting their with them. But Comely’s direction in the mundane only makes the dramatic scenes more compelling, with Rosie’s stubborn reticence to talk about pregnancy building the relationship of the two women to breaking point.

Not knowing what to expect from a small, independent production, I entered the Alma for the first time with an open mind, and can’t say I was disappointed. The first thing I did on leaving was pick up the listings for future showings at the Alma, knowing that a return visit will definitely be on the cards.


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