The badgers may be winning in Westminster, but in Kieran Lynn’s smart little allegory it’s bunny rabbits facing a farmer’s shotgun – and they don’t stand a chance.
The British, it is often claimed, care more about animals than they do about people, and Bike Shed Theatre’s deliciously gruesome production – which won the Peter Brook Empty Space Award and has now transferred to London – takes full advantage of this.
Cosy rural life, set to Paul Bull’s initially twee soundscape, is blown apart when landowner Stamper decides a radical solution is needed to get rid of the “non-native” species he believes are destroying his farm. As with another kind of solution – one preceded by the word ‘final’ – this leads to systematic mass murder.
While the Nazi analogy is obvious long before rabbit skin lampshades start popping up around the farmhouse, Lynn’s writing has heart as well as satire, with the spirit of George Orwell emerging as quickly as Stuart Crewe’s delightful fold-out set. Richard Pulman gives a surprisingly touching performance as Stamper, who inadvertently moulds his directionless son Max – the increasingly wild-eyed Jolydon Westhorpe – into a monster. Annette Chown has less to work with as sister/daughter Eva – the only animal lover amongst them, but when Stamper sings “it’s time to take our country back” into a blooded knife, it’s a chilling reminder that it’s not just wood pigeons and natterjack toads under threat.
New Diorama Theatre, London. Until 12 November
Written for The Stage