Project Arts Centre, Dublin
Christine Dwyer Hickey’s first play is a daring endeavour. Into a grubby bungalow with bars on the windows and a boarded-up letterbox she puts three hungover men, one white rabbit, a couple of inexplicable occurrences and a lot of repressed male rage. Snow slowly buries them from outside and the young men discover that several doors in the house have been locked (by whom or what we do not know), the pipes have frozen, and nobody is coming to the party. Something suspicious is going on and this new playwright is brave enough to tell us nothing.
As the three men emerge gauchely from their drunken slumbers, we are offered several blurry glimpses of the goings-on down the pub the night before. The dialogue is tetchy and erratic and the sense of a simmering cataclysm is unmistakable. Cait Corkery’s appropriately encumbered set appears to shrink before us as rooms in the house become inaccessible to the men. As hunger, panic and paranoia set in, they turn on each other in outbursts of violent frenzies and scathing verbal cuffs.
Dwyer Hickey’s flair for storytelling (she is a novelist) is clearly exhibited in the eloquence and vivacity of the writing, while the humour in the opening scenes sets a steady pace for this psychological thriller. There are moments later, however, that seem to wander away from its dramatic locale and come dangerously close to the playwright’s more verbose comfort zone, particularly in the long reflective monologues by Jim (Des Hickey). Soon-to-be-published writer Sebastian (Michael Hough) is the driving force behind most of the scenes and his entrance immediately injects some much-needed vim to the opening dialogue between his brother Oscar (Ger Hough) and their flatmate.
Sebastian’s cantankerous and explosive character is juxtaposed brilliantly by his paternal attachment to the nonchalant rabbit he finds in the kitchen. The animal, who appears remarkably content in the man’s arms throughout, represents the last remaining symbol of innocence, freedom and calm as the play turns inwards on itself and, with careful direction by Rosemary McKenna, a brawl between the three men breaks out.
Although no concrete answers are provided, this play has enough earthly authenticity to make the indistinct elements tolerable. Whether they are intended to be of a supernatural nature, or a sinister trick played by one of the covetous brothers, it doesn't seem to matter. Set to Cameron McCauley's chilling soundscape of static white noise and the sound of keys turning in locks, this is not for the faint-hearted. Until Saturday