Even though the thought of having to do the tiniest most insignificant thing in front of people without hours and hours of preparation makes me super nervous, I always get really excited when I find out that a show I’m seeing at Live Theatre is in the Studio Space. It means that the performer has the opportunity to be a little less formal in really interesting ways.
So despite my tiny flutter of fear at what we might all be made to do when the show started and the lights didn’t go down, I thought Memoirs of a Bunny Boiler opened in a great way as writer and performer Rachel Jackson, walked in through the back door of the Studio dressed for a night out asking everyone if they had signal on their phone whilst drinking from a can of Red Bull.
The show opens with Jackson explaining to us where the term ‘Bunny Boiler’ comes from – the film Fatal Attraction where a jealous ex-girlfriend literally boils her former lover’s family pet bunny – we’re then told a couple of stories.
I think what I really liked about the show is that Jackson has created this character that could really easily be portrayed as a comedy ‘Nightmare Girlfriend/Ex-girlfriend’ type character but while there’s a lot to laugh about in the stories of her love life that she’s telling us, I thought there was also a really likeable and sympathetic side to the character.
I think part of that likeability comes from just how energetic the character is. There are some parts of the show where Jackson is talking ridiculously fast (and I feel like I should probably make a joke about making sure the can of Red Bull gets the credit it deserves) and I think that’s responsible for a lot of the comedy in the show – it’s often used when Jackson just keeps adding more and more details to an anecdote that just makes the story more and more ridiculous – and it’s also genuinely impressive when you think about the fact that there’s an actual human person standing on a stage and remembering those lines whilst speaking them so fast.
But as well as this, her sympathetic side really comes across as the show goes on and we find more and more about one of her ex’s called ‘The Cult Leader’. When first mentioned it seemed to be nothing more than a passing mention of a wacky story but then later on in the show, while telling us about an argument with another ex she ends up screaming about being in a relationship for four years with a cult leader. From there it sort of changes how we think of that relationship as it starts to become clear just how much of an impact that relationship had on the character.
This leads to something interesting that I’m hoping I’ve understood properly. Basically, as I understand it, a Bunny Boiler is someone who can’t let go of a past relationship and ends up doing ridiculous things because they can’t accept a relationship is over. But towards the end of the show, we’re really let into the problems this character has with commitment, which I thought was a really interesting way of contrasting how we’d thought of this character up until that point.
The show was really short and it did seem to end pretty abruptly, but I actually enjoyed the way it ended and some of the abruptness came down to the character having to make abrupt decisions. Otherwise though, I thought the show was really funny, found it really impressive just how fast Rachel Jackson can talk and I really liked how complex Rachel Jackson made this character that could have been a simple comedy stereotype.
Review by Ryan Watson (Guest Blogger for April)