There are some lovely grace notes in Brad Birch’s intimate father-son tale, ‘Where the Shot Rabbits Lay’, but a few duff scenes too.
A rugged dad (Peter Warnock), bearing a vague resemblance to Bear Grylls, is taking his milky soft son (Richard Linnell) on a camping trip. They’re going to eat beans, bond and attempt to salvage their relationship in the wake of a messy divorce. They’re also going to try to shoot rabbits.
Andy Robinson’s abstract set – really just a mash of natural colours – sets the tone for this unassuming production. Director Roland Jaquarello is careful not to over-impose, although his constant use of twanging ‘outback’ music does begin to grate.
Birch’s writing is best at its least self-conscious. There are some small but striking little moments; the lads’ first shared joke or a simple apology from the boy to his dad. It’s the big, messy arguments that misfire. The father’s cruel outbursts feel too venomous for such a gentle hum of a play. One wonders why the poor lad doesn’t just run home to his mum.
By Miriam Gillinson
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The first thing that strikes you on entering the space is the beautifully painted set by Andy Robinson – you can almost smell the bracken and even hear it underfoot before the play’s started. A slightly late start whilst punters fuddled-about meant that, having settled in comfortably, I then had to shuffle along and half my view was blocked. For the first time visiting the White Bear I wished the rear seats higher. This shouldn’t detract from the play though initially there wasn’t much to detract from. A whole scene spent on the minutiae of putting-up a tent with no obvious metaphor – or perhaps too obvious a metaphor – and scant entertainment value. A Pathé instructional film minus the stroppy Vicky-Pollard-Era-Adolescent who only continued to be stroppy. I further incanted the sufficiency of a pop-up tent and be done with it. A series of short vignettes by Brad Birch played-out briefly, expertly and predictably: a divorced father attempting to bond with his pubescent offspring in albeit consummate portrayals by Peter Warnock and Richard Linnell respectively, under the evidentially efficient direction of Roland Jaquarello. Not before time their anger surfaced via increasing tension readying for the hunt: father showing son how to shoot; how to handle a gun; how to be powerful; how to be ‘A Man’. Everything, of course, he is not and all in youthful innocence his son is – the patriarch’s harping references to a childhood idyll as distant as his understanding of modern teenagers. It is the truth that kills in his salivating salvo: “YOU’RE TOO MUCH LIKE YOUR FUCKING MOTHER!” This guy knows more about pitching a tent, shooting and fishing than how to be a good Dad. Are things so hopeless? Can what is broken actually be mended? The man revealed as simply a human being is what we want: the comfort that wounds can heal, blood being thicker than water and all that. With questions already answered, the play resolves nothing. Once realised, it serves as an austere reminder of the things we do to protect those we love. And how our aim backfires.