Rabbitskin by Dominic Grace

Rabbitskin is a glorious demonstration of simple storytelling, weaving a touch of magic into the everyday tale. A lamb amongst wolves, Joe, is the centre around which this touching and intimate experience is created. Our storyteller is incredibly likeable, with an awful lot on his mind, which makes for some exceptional tales that never fail to captivate. We follow Joe's childhood in Leeds with his proud Irish father and bullying brother through scraps of memory; little details of places and moments in time, things that only a tender-hearted character like Joe would note, as well as smatterings of borrowed anecdotes of his mother who died when he was little.

The compelling style of talking and drifting off and heartwarming nature of our sole character Joe - performed with great delicacy by Luke Adamson - makes even an account of dishwashing absolutely glorious. His being incredibly sentimental, loving his books and family immensely, makes him a closely comparable figure to Chbosky's wallflower Charlie. As the young man tells us about the boy who came before, we watch him growing up, making his reluctant progression towards the frightening truth of the Joe we see before us.

This kind of playwriting is the meat of great literature, something we savour and actively don't want to come to an end. However it does; the sweet and poetic nature of Joe's books and protective father fall hard on the pavement of the real world, cruel and unforgiving as it is.

The tales are homely, dipping into folklore, a retelling of the tales before tales, and a distant echo of the oral tradition that saturates Joe's Irish heritage. We hear about hunting rabbits, household routine as well as small snippets of the life of his father, an interesting character in how he is depicted, indicated to us only by the strong Irish accent, easy confidence and posture into which Adamson slips with ease.

One criticism I might note is that the climax has the potential to pack a greater punch as it is saddening rather than shocking. However the simplicity of boy and chair, table and strewn books, plays a wonderful backdrop to the elaborate images our storyteller conjures for us. Here, paring excellent writing with all-absorbing acting, is a beautiful piece of theatre.

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Performances

The Blurb

Joe is a master storyteller just like his Irish father. But there's one story that's hardest to tell. 'Most successful marriage of oral tradition and written word I've seen in a long time' (BBC Radio Bristol).

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