The Rabbits, adapted from the picture book by John Marsden and Shaun Tan, is the story of native marsupials having their homeland ravished by invading rabbits, who gradually transform the land into a shadow of what it once was. It is beautifully symbolic of both how introduced species, such as rabbits, have devastated the Australian bush land, and of our shameful history in regards to our Indigenous people. The Rabbits brought its message home loud and clear. Set to Kate Miller-Heidke’s superb lyrical adaptation of Marsden’s words, the music was haunting – and devastating at times.
The costumes and set, taken from Shaun Tan’s illustrations and placed on stage perfectly to each and every detail, included steam-punk costumes for the rabbits and a distinct lack of paws on all of the animals. Strangely, the true highlight of the show for me came from the lighting technician. In the opening scenes red and brown tones, symbolic of the bush, dominated the stage. Gradually, the colours drew away leaving the finals scenes dominated by grey. This process was so slow that in the final scene when the original lighting returned, not only was it surprising, it brought home the damage caused by our collective past. Ultimately, The Rabbits for me was the clear highlight of this year’s festival, and hopefully earns its place as an Australian theatre classic.
Review by Sam Calleja