By Gillie T and Brenda Sandilands
And then the rabbit died, co-written by Atramental Theatre’s Kate Sullivan and Rory Devlin, was first performed in November last year and is still highly topical. This raw and funny play takes us through the confusing maze that is Ireland’s family planning system (or lack of, in the words of the playwrights).
Evocative images and soundscape set the scene as a boisterously exuberant Aisling (a hilarious life-affirming performance by Sullivan) bursts into our midst, late for a weekly book group meeting. She is rain-soaked, tipsy and – worst of all – pregnant (despite being on the pill).
The plot unfolds in chronological fashion with scenes marking the early weeks of Aisling’s pregnancy. This clever structure allows us to live the experience with her, as she explores her limited options, imagining the outcome of each. Should she tell the father? What will her staunchly devout Catholic mother say? In her over-wrought emotional state, she reflects on other women’s experiences and is not reassured: “Then I become some big horrible reclusive stretch-mark ridden, man-lusting and ironically man-repelling beast… Oh my god. I’ve become my Auntie Eileen!”
A poignant musical score intensifies our emotions (especially the heart-wrenching Sorry Seems to be the Hardest Word)… and the sound of the stylus scratching to a halt on the vinyl gives a sense of abrupt finality. A series of short videos add further atmosphere. One of the funniest is a sex education video from the 1980s; the narrator, Angela, asks the viewers to pray before listening. Aisling is not impressed, commenting that “Best thing to ever happen was the legalisation of condoms. Indeed it was. Brilliant it was. But they didn’t tell us how to f**king use it. Sex ed here is a joke.”
The play ends with an unexpected twist that leaves the audience reflecting on the importance of choice. Will the brave and bolshy Aisling live happy ever after? Or will she become a victim of societal and religious constraints?
‘And then the Rabbit died’ was performed at the Penta Hotel on Saturday 28 July as part of the Reading Fringe Festival 2018.