The Year of the Hare

Aug 23 2015 | By More

✭✭✭✩✩   Emotional rollercoaster

Young critic scheme review
The Pleasance Dome (Venue 23): Sat 8 – Mon 31 Aug 2015

Creative, absorbing, and very wacky, the Finnish Ryhmateatteri Ensemble’s version of Arto Paasilinna’s popular book, originally published in 1975, certainly leaves an impact.

The play, in a new English adaptation by Catherine Grosvenor which is part of the Start to Finnish programme, transports you to an absorbing and bizarre world, where the line between the real world and dream-land is blurred. Director Aleksis Meaney has a very abstract way of thinking and transforms the original book into almost a piece of art – it is open to many interpretations.

David McKay and Kim Allan. Photo: Alan McCredie

David McKay and Kim Allan. Photo: Alan McCredie

Vatenin, a middle-aged man with a dead-end job, a struggling marriage and a prescription of antidepressants, suddenly finds himself in an ever-changing, curious world after finding and befriending a hare. The play is almost like a series of dreams, and dreams are a common theme running throughout the plot.

Although the play originates in Finland, the production has been cast in Scotland. The four actors play many characters with impressive diversity. David McKay and Kim Allan play the two main characters, Vatalin and the Hare, while Sarah McCardie and Martin Docherty take on the majority of the peripheral characters and switch between accents, personalities and even species. They do this so well that you forget that the characters are played by the same actors.

The genre of this play is unclear – it is comedic, but is also melancholy in its own unique way. It brings tears to the eyes, but for reasons which are unclear. This may not be the aim – however if it is, then it is achieved excellently.

Perhaps the reason it is so sad is due to the existential crisis Vatenin and the hare are experiencing. It studies facts of life in an extremely abstract manner which is confusing, and means it is hard to understand what is happening in the plot. It is unclear what is real and what is not.

emotional intelligence

David McKay plays Vatenin with an acting style which brings many layers to the character, although at times he puts so much into the performance, extremes of movement and a consistently high volume, that it leaves nothing for the character to build up to. However this is only at certain points in the play and his developed understanding of the character and emotional intelligence make his performance memorable.

Kim Allan portrays the hare as a lovable and comical companion for the protagonist, and although the performance does not always attract the eye when other action is going on, when noticed Allan is constantly keeping up the character and doing something funny.

The play ends abruptly, and leaves the audience confused and wanting answers. Some people may enjoy this freedom to take from the play what they will, however for some it can be frustrating and unsatisfying. This slightly lets down what is otherwise a very creative and clever piece of theatre.

The genius use of media and projections, the comedy, and the wide range of colourful characters make this wonderfully weird production definitely worth seeing.

It may well be a play which is either loved or hated by its audience members, but for those who can appreciate more abstruse theatre, it is very well done.

Running time 1 hour 15 minutes
The Pleasance Dome (venue 23), Potterrow, EH8 9AL
Saturday 8 – Monday 31 August 2015
Daily 6.45pm.

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