Carrot and Stick Productions: Rabbits on a Red Planet - Review by Daniel Conway
Updated: Jun 13
I am not a person who is surprised very often; I am just not trained to be used to it. My birthday is so close to Christmas that people can't surprise me with plans. When I see a movie, I can normally figure out the plot very quickly because I have seen quite a lot of them. So when I got the chance to come and see Rabbits on a Red Planet, I was ready to be surprised. I was ready to see a brand new Australian musical and sit back and see where the night took me.
On this site, we don't do story recaps; most shows have been seen before, and if you wanted to know what a show is about... Google is right there. However, this is a brand new and totally original production, so I will try to give a summary of what to expect when you go to Flight Path Theatre. Book by Andy Leonard and Irving Gregory and score by Ryley Gillen (who also served as Player MD), Rabbits on a Red Planet is a campy musical comedy that explores such light topics as genocide, colonialism, and the ethics of letting someone die; on paper, it's a laugh riot from the start. I couldn't help but think I was watching the best of original Star Trek, or sci-fi from that era—the costuming was simple and effective, but had a crafty feel that was so endearing and so in-tune with the campery that was happening on stage. Director Isaac Broadbent has done a wonderful job of crafting the show for the Flight Path theatre, with its very particular dimensions and the aeroplane noises for which the theatre is named actually adding to the show. I went into this show knowing nothing but the name, and it was worth the experience.
Rabbits on a Red Planet has an ensemble of five performers who, in my opinion, are all phenomenal. I was seriously blown away by the calibre of talent I saw on stage. I am going to say this now so I don't repeat myself constantly: every person is a wonderful singer whose voices really blew me away. The voices alone are worth the price of admission. Co-writer Andy Leonard also appears as a vital part of this ensemble as the slimy, megalomaniacal Rob Muskas. Leonard played this role to perfection; the character is just the worst person, and Leonard played that up so much that it circled all the way around to being endearing, in that I loved every second he was in that character on stage. Isabelle Kohout played the most competent person on the expedition, Dr. Evelyn, who often had to be the straight man to Leonard's shenanigans. That is a hard gig because it can come off one note; however, Kohout's performance was varied in terms of levels and actually had some of the most emotionally heavy moments of the show. James Burchett rounds out the trio of travellers as the hapless Adam. Burchett is a joy on stage and was very clearly having fun as he was so committed in his body language and energy. These three spend a large chunk of the first act on stage together, filling space, talking sci-fi space nonsense, and really capturing the frustration that would be a three person voyage to Mars. The other members of this ensemble don't sit in one character for as long, but they fill out the stage just as much.
Jenna Woolley gives amazing face and is such a strong comedic actor; however, I was obsessed by her movement. Woolley is highlighted as a dancer, and combined with the story she could tell with her facial expression, I found it hard to look away. Sara Camara is the final piece of this puzzle; she is absolutely hilarious and has one of my favourite songs in the first act. Camara is so good and likeable on stage that she injected every scene in which she was featured with an energy that elevated it. Like I said, I had no idea what this show was about, and I think that is part of the excitement of seeing something new and original. There were aspects that I thought didn't quite vibe, somethings that I liked less than others, but I walked away excitedly talking to my companion for the night about it and in the end, that is what we want when we make theatre: for the audience to sit back, enjoy, and walk away feeling like they were part of something. It was so good to see something new, and I think you should run, not walk, to see it for yourself. The whole cast and crew of Rabbits on a Red Planet should be so proud of themselves, and I give this production 4.25 giant mutant rabbits out of 5.