'Like Rabbits', here with Zoe Manders and Ben Duke.  Photo © Benedict Johnson

‘Like Rabbits’, here with Ino Riga and Ben Duke.
Photo © Zoe Manders

The Place, London, UK; October 10, 2014

Charlotte Kasner

Virginia Woolf in dance form, thus Virginia Wolf without the words – what’s not to like? And “Like Rabbits”, a collaboration between Lost Dog founder Ben Duke and playwright Lucy Kirkwood is a very clever, witty piece. At just under an hour, it is exactly the right length and samples Woolf’s “Lappin and Lapinova” to create a poignant verisimilitude of the mating game with a dab of mysticism to boot. All credit is due to co-creator and dancer Ben Duke but especially to his partner on this evening, Louise Tanoto, who replaced Ino Riga at short notice and utterly seamlessly.

The stage is bare except for two small stools, a couple of microphone stands and a dress rail upstage on which hangs a suit carrier. Against a background of crude and loud music, a woman sits on a stool down stage left and smokes. That in itself is quite shocking these days. She is wearing a short, white dress with a frilly skirt and seems at first totally indifferent to her surroundings. Her body language however says something different: she is tense and watchful whilst appearing to focus everywhere but where she is really looking.

A man enters, looking for all the world like a coal black version of Christopher Bruce’s Little Red Rooster. His ludicrous gyrations are like a cross between the funky chicken and 1970s disco. He seems utterly unaware, convinced of his own allure as he primps and preens. It seems at first as if the woman is indifferent as she saunters off, only to return and beckon him to follow. He’s pulled and it’s her place.

Scene II is foreplay. Just in case the audience hasn’t cottoned on, the title of the accompanying music leaves nothing to the imagination. There is some very clever choreography which leaves the agency all in the hands of the woman. She strips, peeling off leggings and then dress to reveal a somewhat hirsute presence. Undeterred our hero barely pauses, but suddenly she breaks off from her lustful acrobatics to fetch the suit carrier – a rather fetching glittery one – from the upstage dress rail. “Ooh,” thinks the man, “a bit of role play,” although his anticipation is somewhat deflated when he realises that it is a rabbit suit. OK, whatever, he obliges.

'Like Rabbits' (dancers: Ben Duke and Ino Riga).  Photo © Zoe Manders

‘Like Rabbits’ (dancers: Ben Duke and Ino Riga).
Photo © Benedict Johnson

Benedict Johnson

Scene III is sex. This is where the choreography really comes into its own. The pace changes constantly, the couple brace themselves against the floor, against each other, on their shoulders, around their waists. They are fast, slow, fast again. Then they break off. He pleads fatigue, she is depressed and turns away, slumped like a five year old pretending to be a rabbit. Of course, she’s just pretending to be a rabbit as she is of course a shape-shifting snow hare, the centre of many mythologies across the world. She grabs a microphone, names her paramour as king rabbit and they are off again, this time using the microphone to enhance the depiction of their coupling.

Then they part. She is deflated, sullen, sulking. He strips his rabbit suit off, the frisson of their lust fizzling out like a dying firework. “I need a piss,” he states baldly and strides off. She is disturbed, bereft, no longer vibrantly alive. He returns wearing a wrapped in a dressing gown and cleaning his teeth. Prosaic reality returns.

Great stuff, and definitely worth seeing!