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Home arrow Buxton 2014 arrow Stories About Love, Death And A Rabbit
Stories About Love, Death And A Rabbit

4 starsReviewed by Richard Stamp
Underground Venues
10 & 12 Jul 8:30pm to 9:30pm, 13 & 15 Jul 10pm to 11pm

This delightful show sits halfway between comedy and solo theatre, delivering plenty of laugh-aloud surprises yet concealing a sharp-edged poignancy, too.  Hosted by middle-aged librarian Ms Samantha Mann, it’s a broad-ranging monologue about loves lost, lives lived… and the trials of sharing her home with a rabbit.  Though she seems at first prim and practical, Samantha gradually reveals both an intriguing past and an adventurous personality, stumbling through a public journey of self-discovery which I felt positively privileged to join her on.

Samantha Mann is, in truth, actor Charles Adrian – an inspired piece of gender-blind self-casting, which makes his sweetly vulnerable character even more easy to love.  In character, Samantha is up-tight and nervous, prone to changing tack halfway through a sentence or flubbing the punchline of a lengthy set-piece joke.  It’s a kind of anxiety we’ve all suffered from time to time; and even as you giggle at her hapless ineptitude, you’re sure to find yourself willing the have-a-go heroine on.

As the hour progresses, Samantha does indeed learn to overcome her fears and, in her own way, flourish.  Encouraged by her audience, she reads some poetry – which initially proves amusingly bad, but later takes a devastatingly poignant turn.  One heartbreaking passage speaks of her own secret loneliness, but calls out too to anyone who’s ever lost someone they cared about.  It’s a remarkable tribute to Adrian’s surety of touch that he achieves all this while keeping the laugh count high.

But the final scene, where Samantha turns to a whole new mode of self-expression, dispelled a little of the magic for me.  I’m afraid I didn’t quite see the point of it – though to be fair, given the difficult sightlines in Underground Venues’ Barrel Room, the problem might literally be that I couldn’t see the more physical style of comedy.  Nonetheless, I’d have liked a little more clarity around this section, a better understanding of how this incongruous new departure hooked into Samantha’s wider persona.

Because, in the end, it’s the completeness of the character which defines this show.  Samantha’s narrative is packed full of imaginative details – individually inconsequential, but all adding up to a vividly-drawn picture of a bittersweet life.  She spends five minutes hilariously over-elaborating a single joke, yet then reveals a profound personal tragedy as a bumbling aside.  It’s a show which sets out to break all the rules, and proves, in the process, that you don’t need to be conventional to succeed.

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About the Buxton Fringe

The Buxton Fringe 2014 runs from 9 to 27 July in the town of Buxton, Derbyshire. 

It's easy to find your way around this friendly Festival, with most venues within a stone's throw of the town centre.  For more information on the Peak District's own Fringe, check out the official website.

Buxton Fringe online >>