Hampstead Theatre is fast becoming the go-to London address for new American plays originated amongst the vibrant Broadway and off-Broadway producing companies to receive their U.K premieres at. Two years ago they scored a hit (and a subsequent West End transfer) with David Lindsay-Abaire's Good People, a penetrating portrait about being reminded of your roots and past when you've seemingly left them behind, and now the theatre has produced Lindsay-Abaire's earlier play Rabbit Hole, which premiered on Broadway in 2006 and subsequently won him the prestigious Pulitzer prize for drama.
This is also a play about loss, but a far more devastating and affecting one: the worst kind, in fact, when a married couple lose their four-year-old son Danny in a traffic accident after he chased the family dog out of the house into the road and was killed. It is also a play set in a family home, whose comfortable domesticity is suddenly and forever disrupted by that awful happening. Lindsay-Abaire writes with aching feeling about what such an experience must feel like, and gets underneath the skin of both father and mother and their different ways of dealing with the loss.
Those parents are played to perfection by Claire Skinner and Tom Goodman-Hill with a palpable sense of loss, and the very different approaches they have to dealing with it that has the mother wanting to remove all reminders (even to the point of wanting to move house) while the father clings on desperately, endlessly re-watching a video of their young son in the lonely lounge. Meanwhile they drift apart from each other.
It's painful to watch, but also utterly gripping and stunningly played. There are also beautiful supporting performances from Georgina Rich and Penny Downie as the sister and mother of the woman. But it is the late arrival of a 5th character, played with huge assurance and yet awful vulnerability, by recent RADA graduate Sean Delaney, that leads to a kind of bruised closure from which they may be able to move on.
s prodigal, pluralist talent."
Michael Billington for The Guardian
"Matthew Dunster directs a first-rank cast of 12...and already has an almost sold-out hit on his hands. If this doesnt get a West End transfer, itll be a major miscarriage of common sense."
Dominic Cavendish for The Telegraph