Rough-Hewn’s new production is daring, striking and effective. Addressing the issues of multicultural Britain through the mind of a teenage girl, it allows the audience to engage with an absorbing, complex character and her description of what happened on one eventful summer evening in Luton. Out with her twenty-four-year-old boyfriend, Abe, events leave Katie’s control after he gets in a fight with an Asian boy. She ends up in the worst part of Luton with three men and no knickers.
Though a set of monologues are no rarity in student theatre, it is a bold move to use only one actor. To do so inevitably necessitates intricate and shrewd direction, along with very strong acting. Fortunately, Tommo Fowler and Emma D’Arcy have achieved this, resulting in a production which maintains an impressive balance between entertainment and emotional weight.
Katie is not a “bunny”, she’s a scared little girl. Through his intimate monologue, Bunny’s writer (Jack Thorne) plays on this dichotomy. The eighteen-year-old teenager is vivacious and captivating, with charming giggles and an excess of thoughts from giving blowjobs to reminiscing about her overweight friend at school. On the other hand, as the play progresses we increasingly see the other side to her: dangerously naive, perplexed, and ultimately a terrified child.
In her portrayal of Katie, D’Arcy is believable throughout. With a Luton accent, in school uniform, her speech and mannerisms are very convincing as she moves seamlessly between her incomplete thoughts and justifications – delightfully delivered with faultless comic timing – and narration of the story. For the whole hour, D’Arcy has the audience at her fingertips, which would be an extremely remarkable feat for a professional, let alone a student. Her stage presence means that one look in your eyes and you are entranced.
The most salient points of the play happen when, having drawn the audience in, enhanced by the intimacy of the Burton Taylor studio, we are hit with the racism of Abe’s vile friend Asif. The first very loud silence occurs when she impersonates Asif, who exclaimed “fucking suicide bombers, the lot of them!” The other striking element is her sexual naivety. She crudely, and yet somehow innocently, muses about her sexual ventures. Katie doesn’t quite know what to do with her sexuality, making her vulnerable.
The production is minimalist, utilising only a projected screen of Joel Macpherson’s cartoons, illustrating her childish nature. The focus is on Katie’s face; the fascinating world of her thoughts. In achieving what it sets out to do, the play is very difficult to fault.
I wholeheartedly recommend going to see what is a phenomenal display of acting, and an incredibly intriguing script.