Jack Thorne's fast making a name for himself both as a stage and TV writer: His The Fades
has just ended on BBC Three and got stronger by the week; now Bunny
at Soho Theatre Upstairs (the rebranded former Studio, although the name change hasn't stopped the top floor being easily mistaken for a sauna) sees him in the very different medium of an hour-long monologue, which is beautifully written - but also benefits from a spot-on performance by Rosie Wyatt. Katie is an 18-year-old girl in Luton (voted worst place in the country) with liberal parents, prospects of going to University, even if only her last choice accepted her, and a 24-year-old black boyfriend, Abe (she's not sure quite how matter-of-factly to bring up his race.) Race is
one of the issues addressed, including the complexities of how one group of Asians in the town view another group of Asians, but the play isn't as simple as just that. After Abe has a scuffle with a young lad on a bike, some of his friends from work come along and the story really gets going as they drive around town looking for the lad, to beat him up. The journey around town is illustrated by Jenny Turner's line drawings, animated by Ian William Galloway, one of the more effective uses I've seen of the ever-popular popular back wall projections in Joe Murphy's production.
Katie is an interesting character whom Thorne is determined not to pigeon-hole. She's uncomfortable with the idea of stalking the boy but doesn't voice her objections through a mixture and fear and attraction for Abe's alpha-male friend Asif. She's firmly an "inbetweener" in terms of popularity at school. And she has very specifically defined sexual ethics, having waited a long time to lose her virginity, but in the meantime becoming known for her willingness to give blowjobs. Wyatt is a fantastic new talent who at times reminded me, both in looks and performance style, of a younger Catherine Tate (in case you didn't know, this is a good thing) and expertly delivers Thorne's lines that can be simultaneously funny and heartbreaking ("I've never cared about anything as much as fat people care about cake.") The show is produced by political theatre company nabokov, who also produced Thorne's 2nd May 1997
so it's easy to try and pinpoint the main political point the show's making. While many about young people, race relations, sexuality and neglected towns do raise their heads, it's probably best not to try and pin the show down any more than it pins its protagonist down; for once the blurb is pretty accurate in describing it as a show about the complexities of growing up. Fascinating work from everyone involved.Bunny
by Jack Thorne is booking until the 29th of October at Soho Theatre Upstairs.