In playwright Jack Thorne’s monologue, Bunny, first seen at the Edinburgh Fringe 2010 and here making its U.S. premiere at 59E59 Theaters as part of the Brits Off Broadway Festival, the young protagonist, Katie, finds herself taking a dangerous car ride after her boyfriend Abe is attacked by a bicyclist who knocks an ice cream cone out of his hand.
Katie, a talkative teen, is still in high school. She’s blown quite a number of guys, she proclaims. She’s taken her A-levels and GCSEs (British college entrance exams) but got into her safety school – Essex. She’s white; her boyfriend is black. “I just never know how to bring that up,” Katie tells us. In fact, she omitted this detail when describing him to her parents at first.
As it turns out, the concept of race matters in Luton, her hometown in England, where one half of the town is made up most of whites and blacks while the other is made up of Asians (in Britain, “Asian” refers to South Asians – Indians, Pakistanis, etc.).
You see – she’s a white girl, and her boyfriend’s attacker is Asian. Once that ice cream cone is knocked, fatefully (trivially, even), from its perch in Abe’s hand, a set of events is put into place that becomes increasingly difficult to halt. Victim and perp find themselves at fisticuffs, and, once Abe – along with his friends Asif and Jake – head off in the car to catch the criminal (with Katie in the back seat), she soon finds herself out of her depth.
Over the course of the play, we come to care immensely for Katie. It’s not that she’s a particularly nice girl; she frequently describes her thoughtlessness and rebelliousness, particularly toward her parents (she scratches he father’s car with a set of keys after she fails to get into any top universities). But there’s also something engaging about her, particularly as portrayed by talented young actress Rosie Wyatt. She’s acidly funny and, more importantly, she’s relatable.
Most people have, at some point in their lives, found themselves going along with something they increasingly question. As the circumstances around Katie begin to spiral out of control – as they begin to close in on the attacker on his home turf – Katie begins to see the options ahead of her, options she may never have previously have explored.
Thorne’s play is only a little over an hour in length, but it’s a solid piece of writing. There’s no particular gimmick to pull us into the monologue conceit; Katie starts talking, and an audience falls in line, seduced by Katie’s individual brand of humor and the propulsive, insistent rhythm of the text, which mimics natural speech with a heightened, theatrical tone.
On a screen behind Wyatt’s performance are projections designed by Ian William Galloway, drawn by Jenny Turner. As Katie explores the town, bits and pieces of what she describes are drawn behind her; this illustrative method is occasionally distracting but adds some level of focus that can occasionally lack during one-person shows where an audience is expected to follow detailed plot points.
As directed by Joe Murphy, Bunny‘s primary attraction is Wyatt’s superb performance. Wyatt captures the complexities of teenagers – the repulsion and attraction they inspire in an audience, as well as that sense of experiencing things for the first time. Stampeding through the play at a mile a minute, she makes Thorne’s text appear effortless. Though the play peters out in its final scene, Wyatt nonetheless keeps us engaged throughout and makes this production well worth seeing.