Rabbit Hole Review: Pulitzer Prize Winner Lacks Punch

Rabbit Hole, Hampstead Theatre ★★★☆☆

By Stuart Black Last edited 24 months ago
Rabbit Hole Review: Pulitzer Prize Winner Lacks Punch Rabbit Hole, Hampstead Theatre 3
Claire Skinner (Becca) and Georgina Rich (Izzy). Photo by Manuel Harlan.

David Lindsay-Abaire’s play comes to London after winning Tonys, a Pulitzer and being turned into a film with Nicole Kidman, so the main question that occurs while watching it is whether it lives up to those accolades. Which is a shame because the real question it's dealing with concerns the far more human issues of how to overcome grief: specifically the loss of a child.

Claire Skinner plays Becka, who we first see folding up the laundry of her dead son Danny, while her spunky sister Izzy (Georgina Rich) winds her way toward telling her that she is now pregnant. “Yeah, I know, the timing sucks.” It looks like we could be in for melodrama but the plays stays resolutely in this understated domestic register.

In the end, it’s actually too understated and gentle to a fault. Edward Hall’s eminently tasteful production takes its time and eschews grand theatrics; the aim being to create a real and believable family, which it does, then softly break your heart, which it doesn’t — quite.

It feels like a problem with the play itself, that it’s missing a few crucial scenes; so instead the various stages of grief are passed through too easily before acceptance arrives. It’s very American, especially in its doubts about therapy and then its worldly wise assertions that life and time will be therapy enough.

The best moment is when gauche high-schooler Jason (Sean Delaney) turns up to apologise for his part in the accident, only to have several strips torn off him by Danny’s dad Howie (Tom Goodman-Hill). It feels like there's a lot to explore here, both emotionally and dramatically, but the playwright chooses to veer away from the clash soon after it's been teased. And instead we get a series of slightly repetitious scenes that affirm how horrible it must be to go through this kind of tragedy, but ultimately adds up to a play that never really manages the panoramic view that could have made it great.

Rabbit Hole runs at the Hampstead Theatre, Eton Avenue NW3 3EU, until 5 March. Tickets £10-£35. Londonist saw this play on a complimentary ticket.

Last Updated 10 February 2016