4.5-⭐ · Fringe Reviews 2018 · Reviews · Theatre Reviews

REVIEW: ‘Rat Race’ by Queen Mary Theatre Company

4.5 Stars

Kind of like a Samuel Beckett play but with rats. I think that’s the best explanation I can give of this show.

This is a fascinating little play (and I don’t use little in a condescending manner because this play certainly doesn’t deserve it). Eilis Price has written an intelligently philosophical yet touching piece that contemplates a number of things and contemplates them in a thoroughly interesting way. I’m not sure if it’s just me being a bit of a pretentious old sod with a fondness for this type of existential pondering, but I must say this really is a brilliantly written bit of drama. The right level of through-provoking, providing uncomfortably insightful social and political commentary, and with a nice thread of darkness running through its heart, it joins the list of strongest original scripts I’ve seen at the Fringe.

The characters are distinct and compelling, with each of the four rats fitting almost perfectly in the classical ‘Four Temperaments’ as it happens. These characters are archetypes but the script knows they are archetypes, and Price knows how to use them to make the points she wants to make, as well as in a manner that’s original and engaging. The directors, Price and Rosalynn Whiteley, have also corralled together exactly the right cast of actors to bring life to those characters. The entire cast for this production are impeccable across the board; it’s these actors, plus Price’s writing, that make you genuinely care about these characters not just as archetypes but as people (even if most of them are rats).

Christopher Field is instantly convincing in the layered role of ‘Bansky Rat’, never missing a beat as the driving force for the piece and the source of many of the deeper trains of thought it goes on. Charlotte Edgar’s “Pill Rat” has multiple edges and Edgar portrays them with a variety of both subtle and overt mannerisms. Beatrice Olivier and Rachel Jermy give two of the most nuanced performances in the piece with Olivier’s straight-faced, measured role as the “Control Rat” ultimately proving the be the emotional heart of the play, and Jermy putting in a meticulously unhinged yet endearing portrayal of the “Placebo Rat”. Finally, the hectic presence provided by Max Griggs, as “Kenneth”, brings a sense of urgency that serves as one of several elements keeping the energy high in what would otherwise simply be a long, if interesting, conversation. The constant pacing or fidgeting, and frequent breaks to “run the maze” are yet more ways in which the script and direction have contributed to that same disquieting energy. 

Rat Race is clever and intriguing play with a superb cast, that has a lot of interesting things to say, and knows just when to take some darker turns. A little bit disturbing and more than little bit thought-provoking, this a definitely a play to see if you fancy something that’s going to tickle your brain a little and, I must say, tickle your funny bone quite a bit too. 



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