Beautifully Heartbreaking Play Crosses Divide

Ben Tari, Rachel McNamara & Gretchen Prowse in rehearsal for Rabbit Hole. Photo: Nat Ord

An independent production of David Lindsay-Abaire’s multi award-winning play, Rabbit Hole, opens at the Hume Bank Butter Factory Theatre next Tuesday, 26 November.

The play is one of the first fruits of HotHouse Theatre’s CELSIUS: Independent Theatre program, produced by Rachel McNamara. McNamara plays Becca, who with husband, Howie (Ben Tari), is trying to navigate their journey of grief after their four-year-old son, Danny is killed when he is hit by a car.

Robyne Young caught up with the leads and Melbourne based award winning director, Gabriella Rose-Carter and found serendipity and long-term connections have played their part in bringing Rabbit Hole to the stage.

“I had been looking for the right play for a while and with the assistance of the CELSIUS program, funded through the Australia Council for the Arts, have been able to bring together a great cast of locals and a Melbourne based actor, and Melbourne based director, Gabriella Rose-Carter who trained in the Strasberg method in New York,” McNamara said.

“We have had a long lead time to make space for the model of having Gabriella travel, and have been able to slowly build the work. For me it has awakened those old acting muscles. Coming into this production as a mother has also made this a very different performance experience.”

The Albury based actor returned to the stage with Tari last month in the Marg Hickey-Rosie Koop production of What We Said in Milawa.

Becca (Rachel McNamara) and Howie (Ben Tari) in Rabbit Hole. Photo: Nat Ord

McNamara and Tari both appeared in Channel 7’s long running show, All Saints and unexpectedly met through the CELSIUS program.

“There was a meeting about the program to outline the grants available for development and production. Rachel was sitting next to me and she said, ‘I know you’. She talked to me about the role. It was a chance to put my acting shoes back on which I hadn’t planned to do,” Tari said.

The NIDA trained actor said after making the move from Sydney to Albury he had moved his focus to writing.

“I wanted to concentrate on my writing and possibly directing which I had been doing at the inner west Sydney school I had taught at.”

Tari didn’t know the play, and hadn’t seen the 2010 film adaptation starring Nicole Kidman, but said when he read the script the number of layers in it immediately became apparent to him.

“It’s very subtle. It’s very ordinary people doing everyday ordinary things trying to get on with their lives but embedded in that is this grief.”

Tari said while people may think the play sounds very angsty and the characters will be overwrought with crying and tears all the time, it has its moments of comedy.

Gabriella Rose Carter & Finn McBurney in rehearsal. Photo: Nat Ord

“You can’t be playing that loss all the time. You just have to play your normal, everyday actions.”

He said he has enjoyed the theatre experience of performing with McNamara in contrast to a more manufactured experience of working in film and television.

“Working with Rachel is really freeing and has helped me to think about how my process works. There’s another person here and we are actually having to rely and each other and trust each other.”

McNamara met Rose-Carter in 2017 and later attended an actor’s retreat with the acclaimed acting coach and director.

Rose-Carter said she was intrigued by Abaire’s beautifully heartbreaking, chilling exploration of a family dealing with the stages of grief.

“There is a furious appetite and passion that needs to be raised, recognised and encouraged”

“When I first read it, I was moved by the importance of these different stages and how we must feel them to move on.”

Rose-Carter said the CELSIUS program was a great opportunity to network and build with relationships with regional artists and to liaise with HotHouse, the Corowa Theatre company whose space they have used for rehearsals, the Albury Wodonga Theatre company and local Margie Gleeson.

She said her experience had been very rewarding on many levels and she had experienced a wealth of knowledge, exceptional talent and generosity.

“There is a furious appetite and passion that needs to be raised, recognised and encouraged. Everyone has wanted to help and jumped on board. This is not always the case on other places.”

Rose-Carter said it was an honour to be programmed at the Butter Factory Theatre.

“It’s such a great space. We also had the opportunity to use the Month In the Country farmhouse early on for our first reading of the play and spend time together over a creative weekend bouncing ideas and breaking down the script.”

Local actor, Gretchen Prowse and Melbourne based Finn McBurney also perform in Rabbit Hole in the roles of Izzy and Danny.

When: Tues 26– Thurs 28, 7:30 PM
Where: Butter Factory Theatre, Gateway Island
Tickets: Full Price $30/Concession $25