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a rabbit for kim jong-il@ sbw stables theatre

Inset pic- Kit Brookman and Steve Rodgers. Featureed pic- Kaeng Chan and Kit Brookman in A RABBIT FOR KIM JONG-IL. Production photography by Brett Boardman
Inset pic- Kit Brookman and Steve Rodgers. Featureed pic- Kaeng Chan and Kit Brookman in A RABBIT FOR KIM JONG-IL. Production photography by Brett Boardman

Bizarrely, the Lee Lewis directed A RABBIT FOR KIM-JONG-IL was partly inspired by real life events, when a German rabbit breeder sold his over-sized rabbits to the North Korean government. What subsequently happened was a mystery, though in filling in the gaps in this fictional re-imagining, Kit Brookman has created a fantastic comedy.

The play opens when Johann Wertheim (Steve Rodgers) reluctantly accepts money from Chung (Kaeng Chan), acting on behalf of the North Korean government, in exchange for his prize rabbits. When Wertheim regrets his decision he inveigles his way into North Korea but his hosts are cagy about the promised breeding program and the rabbits’ fate looks grim. Add to this mix a double agent who tails Wertheim (Kate Box) and a karaoke loving North Korean Official (Mémé Thorne) and you have a very funny show.  Even Felix, the extraordinarily large rabbit gets a chance at karaoke, where he has a tone-deaf go.

In the theatrical world when animals talk and the drama goes from the sublime to the ridiculous, it can either be a great success of a huge cringe-inducing exercise. In Lee Lewis’ hands A Rabbit for Kim Jong Il is the former. Rodgers, Chan, Box and Thorne are all excellent, but the serene and soft Felix (Kit Brookman) is the highlight of the play. The rabbit is unnaturally large and wise, though like many he has trouble with forgiveness. Wertheim tries to apologise for selling Felix to the North Koreans, and asks if Felix forgives him, Felix is understandably circumspect in his answer. The question of forgiveness is a central theme of the play: can we overlook unspeakable atrocities and betrayal? Should we even try?  The play poses more questions than it answers, but in doing so it has the distinction of being a very moving and amusing production.

A RABBIT FOR KIM JONG- IL is playing at the SBW Stables theatre, 10 Nimrod Street, Kings Cross until 21 November. For more details visit:- http://www.griffintheatre.com.au/whats-on/a-rabbit-for-kim-jong-il/

Featuring:   Kate Box, Kit Brookman, Kaeng Chan, Steve Rodgers and Mémé Thorne.

Creative Team: Lee Lewis (director), Elizabeth Gadsby, Luiz Pampolha, Steve Francis and Charlotte Barrett.

This review was first published on Joy Minter’s website – http://www.thebuzzfromsydney.com/

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