I would like to preface this review by saying that I think this production could be fantastic. With the right edits it really could be an incredible show - a weird one, but great. As it is, Aleksis Meaney’s production falls short of greatness, and is instead a bit of a bizarre mess.
If this production can find its feet, and settle on a tone, it could be something extraordinary.
The play is ‘freely based’ on a Finnish novel by Arto Paasilinna, which I am certainly intrigued to read now, with the action centring on Vatanen, an overworked office-manager in Helsinki. Vatanen meets an eccentric hare (yes, as in the animal) and embarks upon a surreal emotional and physical journey. It’s a strange plot, but not one without potential, though it is let down by an awkward script and poor directorial decisions.
The dialogue is very clunky, with gratuitous swearing that jars with the rest of the production, and breaks the illusion of the world the actors have created for the audience. Alongside the problems with the script are strange choices on the part of the director, such as a plethora of ridiculous wigs, repeated tuneless karaoke, and slapdash staging. These problems make the entire production seem wholly amateur, and detract from the show’s strengths. Some moments make you feel as though you are watching a poorly made children’s show, which are then thrown against scenes where a character breaks down on the floor with an empty bottle of antidepressants.
The acting, on the whole, is fairly strong. Kim Allan is utterly captivating as the hare: beautifully understated and so eminently watchable on stage. David McKay and Martin Docherty are a lovely pairing too, and complement each other well. Sarah McCardie has moments of brilliance, notably when she is narrating the tale, but when playing some of the more minor characters, her performance slips into a cringe-worthy caricature. However, McCardie is clearly a worthy actor, and I feel wholeheartedly that the fault lies with the direction, as she dons brightly coloured wigs with little variation between the roles. McCardie also deserves credit as musical director, as the live singing is wonderful and often incredibly moving.
If this production can find its feet, and settle on a tone, it could be something extraordinary. The ending is absolutely beautiful and shows the potential this team has to be spectacular. The finale is tonally perfect, slick, professional and gorgeous to watch, whilst still preserving the quirky spirit of the piece. If the rest of the show can follow suit, and ditch some of the more ludicrous elements, this could be a really successful production.