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Rabbit Hole review at Hampstead Theatre – ’emotionally shattering’

Georgina Rich, Claire Skinner and Penny Downie in Rabbit Hole at Hampstead Theatre. Photo: Tristram Kenton Georgina Rich, Claire Skinner and Penny Downie in Rabbit Hole at Hampstead Theatre. Photo: Tristram Kenton

American writer David Lindsay-Abaire, whose Good People was a hit at Hampstead Theatre in 2014 and subsequently transferred to the West End, is back with another scorching drama that lends a naturalistic truth to its portrait of a married couple facing unimaginable grief. It dares to imagine just what it might feel and look like — and pinpoints precisely the well-meaning instincts of others to offer too much sympathy or hide away in fear.

Ten months ago Becca and Howie’s only son, a four-year-old called Danny, chased the family dog out of the house into the road and was run over and killed. Now the couple are painfully picking up the pieces, and there’s conflict: Becca finds all the memories in the house too much to bear and wants to pack it all away; her husband Howie can’t bear to let those memories go and retreats to the family lounge to watch a video of his young son repeatedly.

There are times when it feels almost intrusive to witness some of their strained interactions, not least when he makes an attempt, soon rebuffed, to renew marital relations. But Lindsay-Abaire’s writing prickles with poignant pain, stunningly articulated in anguished performances from Claire Skinner and Tom Goodman-Hill.

Becca’s newly pregnant sister Izzy and their mother Nat are on hand to lend support, played in Edward Hall’s deeply felt production with tenderness and bewilderment by Georgina Rich and Penny Downie respectively. But it is the late arrival of a fifth character, played with remarkable feeling by recent RADA graduate Sean Delaney, that contains the most drama.

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An earnest but emotionally shattering play is acted to perfection