Story of a Rabbit is a tale of death, knowledge, experience – and tea – written and performed by Welsh artist Hugh Hughes and Hoipolloi Theatre. In it, Hughes weaves together his recollections of the two times in his life he’s seen a dead body; blending facts and memory together into a funny, moving and uplifting multimedia experience.
Those who think this may be dark and morbid need not worry. Hughes has a unique style, delivering his monologues in a charmingly self-effacing and comedic manner with a heavy emphasis on the absurd. After personally greeting every member of the audience as they file into the theatre, he then darts between the cleverly-placed props on the stage, using each to recall a memory or emphasise a point.
Thus a sawdust sculpture of a rabbit becomes a metaphor for the inevitably of change; whilst a potato suspended from the ceiling causes us to question our individuality and the nature of existence. And in the context of the performance, that makes perfect sense.
Behind Hughes, slides and video are projected on a giant screen whilst his friend and co-performer Aled Williams creates live music on keyboard and other instruments to accentuate the mood. What commences as gentle and humourous observations on life and mortality soon meld eloquently into a poignant and personal performance which works on several levels.
Hughes and the mostly mute (“he’s not shy, he’s just quiet”) Williams form an effective and likeable duo, albeit a little exposed and dwarfed by the large venue. Hughes flips effortlessly from conversational manner to raw vulnerability whilst Williams creates an appropriate soundscape to accompany him, and this reaches its pinnacle in the beautifully moving closing scenes, where both tales converge. Even some stumbles, mostly caused by this being opening night in a new venue, are dealt with in such a charmingly open and honest manner that they are easy to forgive and soon forgotten.
Running at the Traverse One until Saturday 14th November, Story of a Rabbit is an emotionally resonant and life-affirming 90 minutes of well-crafted performance theatre. Definitely worth catching as part of its short run, and I’ll be keeping an eye out for Hughes and Hoipolloi in future.
And I may never look at a potato in the same way ever again.