"Forest's power to transform lives"
by May Davey for remotegoat on 17/09/13

Only now in his mid 20s playwright Brad Birch has an impressive record, including as a graduate of the Royal Court’s Young Writer’s Programme. This year alone he’s netted a Fringe First award in Edinburgh, and Where The Shot Rabbits Lay is the second of his plays to get a London production.

Veteran director Roland Jaquarello has picked a fine piece of work which displays, in its insight and its writing, a maturity well beyond Birch’s years. While a good many contemporary plays by young writers have a transience about them – passing fashions that stand to date quickly – Birch has tuned into something timeless. As a study of a core human relationship this is recognisable, attentive to what matters, and capable of speaking to all.

A boy and his father embark on a trip together that pushes each out of his comfort zone. In the same way that Shakespeare's forests function, the location for this trip is sufficiently remote and Other to allow the two to experience themselves – here in the aftermath of divorce - in a new way.

Technical design is spot-on in creating the sounds and the mildly disorientating effect of light, shadow and form that are so much part of a forest setting. The cast are kept busy with a good deal of prop handling, which is at times close to distracting, though I couldn’t fault their deftness.

Their acting too is a real pleasure: Peter Warnock, empathetic as the man, his sense of self truly shaken by divorce and teenager Richard Linnell as his son, struggling both to navigate his place in the family and make some sense of his father’s actions. Sesitively directed by Jaquarello, both served the play very well throughout the close audience encounter that comes with the job at the tiny White Bear Theatre.

‘You need to be by the water to catch a fish’ is the man’s sage advice to the boy. Well, I recommend a seat beside this river to catch a gem of a play. Playing until 29 September.

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