Story Of A Rabbit @ Barbican Pit, London

performed by

Hugh Hughes and Aled Williams
This is a show about death. It is also a show about tea and atoms and sawdust and, of course, a rabbit. But mainly it is a show about death. We know this because the word DEATH is projected on the back wall and because Hugh Hughes, the shows main performer, tells us that it is.

Hugh Hughes is actually the creation of actor Shon Dale-Jones: hes a persona, a character, an alter-ego. As Hughes, he is a genial chap, warm and engaging, with a fondness for whimsy; hes a man who takes a delight in details, in the tiny things that are often overlooked. He greets his audience individually as they file into the Pit, shaking hands, and, once seats have been taken, there is even talk of cups of tea, though only one is actually served. There then follows a further few minutes of banter with the audience, before the show proper begins.

There are two distinct narrative threads that, as Hughes informs us, will collide with each other at some point. In 1995 Hughes agreed to look after his neighbours rabbit while she went away for a few days. Then the rabbit died while in his care, as rabbits sometimes do. In 2001 Hughes received a phone call from his brother telling him his father had died. Fathers, it turns out, are as susceptible to death as rabbits.

Hughes repeatedly switches between these two stories, in a way that is somehow more affecting than if had he simply stood there and spoke about the death of his dad. The stories colour and feed one another. There are some incredibly tender moments, piercing details, as he recalls the banal things the mouth says and odd places the brain goes when one is ambushed by loss. These are interspersed with comic and endearing sequences, like Hughes miming trying to fit a rabbit, stiff with rigor mortis, into a cardboard box that is too small.

To supplement his stories, Hughes employs flipcharts and power point, filmed footage, childhood photographs and music, supplied live by Aled Williams. He even involves the audience in a song at one point. This collage approach fits the material well, and in his eye-wide fascination and openness, Hughes elicits tears from the audience on more than one occasion: the tying of a tie on his funeral suit, the graph he sketched to show where his fathers soul was in relation to him as he took the train back to London. When he used an action man doll to depict his fathers final fall, I felt my throat tighten and my eyes moisten.

Id thought that Hughes persona might be a barrier, an obstruction, but while his boyish wonder is overdone at times, this blurring of the lines between fiction and reality soon ceased to matter. There is beauty here and what is real and not real becomes less relevant. (Hughes uses a quote by Luis Buuel: “fantasy and reality are equally personal and equally felt, and therefore their confusion is a matter of relative importance”). The show makes you think about how people are connected, about how life is part of death and death part of life, it makes you smile, frequently, and it also makes you think about your own loved ones, your own memories. Taken on its own particular terms, the show is a delight.

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