Directed by Lucy Curtis, Bunny is a coming-of-age tale about a self-conscious sixth-former named Katie (Catherine Lamb) from Luton. She somehow ends up on the wrong side of town with her 24-year-old boyfriend Abe, who we are carefully informed is black, and his friends Asif, who is Asian, and Jake, who is white and “looks like a stammerer”. We follow her in this one-woman show as she tells us the events that have led up to her being in a stranger’s house in Marsh Farm with no knickers under her school skirt, and shares with us details of her childhood, her approaching adulthood, and the delicate stage in-between that she currently lives in.
Written by Jack Thorne, the writer of Skins, Shameless and Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Bunny shares the same central themes as the first two. Katie is a middle-class, clarinet-playing white girl, growing up in multicultural Luton. Her parents are “Guardian readers”, as she keeps informing us, and despite having the accent of Bianca Jackson from EastEnders, she bizarrely uses words like “temerity” – something Thorne skirts around by having her acknowledge these “big words” every time she uses one.
Lamb is undeniably fantastic as Katie, and the naivety and innocence she brings to the role is both worrying and exciting as we listen to her story and hope she has made good choices. I’m not sure if it’s Thorne’s writing or Lamb’s presence that captures the unique period that is female adolescence and the sexual exploration that comes with it, but it’s there, and it’s both palpable and terrifying. You could not pay me to be a 17-year-old girl again. She is (as in my experience most young women at this time are) confident, shy, brave, scared and confused, and as she navigates this particular afternoon, she must also deal with themes of class, race and gender, too.
Thorne’s writing is fast, rhythmic and often funny, but some parts are off the mark for me – like Katie’s cruel observations of “fat people eating”, and a segment in which she danced maniacally to House of Pain’s ‘Jump Around’. But mostly it feels gritty, difficult and all too real. Bunny captures in great detail the tensions in Britain today. I’m not sure why or how an adult man would choose to write this through the lens of a teenage girl, but he has, and somewhat annoyingly, qui.
Bunny is playing at the Tristan Bates Theatre until 27 January 2018
Photo: Michael Lindall