Original Death Rabbit, currently running at the Jermyn Street Theatre, sounds like it has something to do with the film Donnie Darko. It doesn’t, although they have more in common than you might expect after seeing the stage set as a millennial’s extremely messy flat, complete with takeaway boxes, vodka bottles and stacks of self-help books. Kimberley Nixon is performing Rose Heiney’s astounding monologue, which captures the best and the very worst of the Internet as the original death rabbit talks us through finding and losing yourself online.
The one-woman show is deeply dark, exceedingly clever and incredibly funny, thanks to Heiney’s brilliant script and Nixon’s delivery. Nixon arrives on stage in a dirtied, well-used rabbit onesie that becomes a point of reference throughout the show. Documenting a young woman’s discovery of the Internet as a place to share her favourite poems in the hope of becoming “an anonymous internet poetry billionaire”, to the trauma of becoming a meme as her and her father’s mental health take several turns for the worse. This play addresses fascinating issues of our time, like cancel culture, trolling and the complicated nuances of talking about mental health. The good side, sort of, of the web does feature too, in the form of the death rabbit’s role as the moderator of a Richard Curtis film fan forum, though even there the Internet proves to be something of a double-edged sword.
Among the inspired mess of Louie Whitemore’s stage design, this play essentially asks, is an online identity actually an identity at all? Or, less profoundly, it asks, what lasts longer, what we put online or what we scrawl on the back of toilet doors? Original Death Rabbit conflates real life and cyberspace on stage, creating one disturbing world where there’s a lot to laugh at but equally, a lot to be worried about. Because the show is quite heavy, it teeters on the long side, but Nixon’s performance is so frightening, funny and captivating that you hardly notice.
The show is heavy on the cultural references, and I wonder if it would have been as enjoyable if I hadn’t spent so much time on the web myself, or if I hadn’t seen the “four major canonical Richard Curtis-authored romantic comedies” so many times. But for those who can recite Hugh Grant’s Love Actually monologue, Original Death Rabbit is a stirring and unforgettable play that is well worth a watch.
Original Death Rabbit is playing Jermyn Street Theatre until 9 February 2019. For more information and tickets, visit the Jermyn Street Theatre website here.