Story of a Rabbit
Story of a Rabbit : Hoipolloi, New Wolsey Studio Theatre, Ipswich, 31 May to 2 June.
Story of a Rabbit : Hoipolloi, New Wolsey Studio Theatre, Ipswich until Saturday
The Sixth Pulse Fringe Festival kicked off to a splendid start with Hoipolloi's Story of a Rabbit. It's a whimsical, thoughtful, charming show on its way to the Edinburgh Festival where it will be an undoubted hit.
Hoipolloi is a theatre company founded by and giving a vehicle for the extraordinary talents of an innocent, naïve and very funny character called Hugh Hughes, the alter ego of the company's creator and principal performer, Shôn Dale-Jones .
Hugh Hughes is a shy storytelling philosopher, telling his audience his personal tales and thinking his sweet thoughts. Throughout he uses odd props scattered around as untidy a stage as you'll ever see. Here you get a pair of shoes, a pull-string light, a model of a street he once lived in, Action Man, a ladder, a potato, a car wheel, a phone, a tea urn and all sorts of visual and hi-tech aids. These range from a flip chart, to a carousel projector to anything that a couple of laptops can put onto a screen. His most helpful aid is his 'best friend Aled' - guitarist, banjoist, keyboard player, voice, and audio manipulator extraordinaire.
Hugh tells two stories, which turn out to be interconnected. One is about a rabbit he looks after for a neighbour while away on holiday. The other is about the death of his father. What makes the show so moving is this second theme. It becomes a lament for the loss of a deeply loved one with that curious attention to remembered detail that we all have with such sad events.
Hugh, or the maestro behind him, is a grand puppeteer, using mime, suggestion, model re-enactments, performance art and a range of theatre techniques. These show us things from a distance, close up, from the outside and from the inside. Like a subtle television director, he endeavours to control our view.
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Most fascinating is how he plays with the theatrical experience. We wonder who exactly is Hugh, and how much he relates to his creator, Shôn Dale-Jones. Whoever is behind Hugh is certainly no rep actor you'll see as Hamlet one week and Charlie's Aunt the next. Hugh is a growing, developing persona - a character in progress.
Hoipolloi had a hit with Floating earlier this year. This, for me, is very different but even better.