'There's a Rabbit in the Moon' – Vélo Théâtre
I don’t want to give away anything about how it begins. Perhaps you’ll see it yourself one day. All I’ll say is that Vélo is a company that understands the importance of transitions and thresholds: from day to night, from ordinary clothes to costume, from public space to private world. The company members transmit this understanding to the young audience with a serious, even stern intensity, demanding complete silence before we enter the workshop of Thomas Snout, collector of nights.
The night he most recently collected – the 14th of February, in this case – is still inside a soft calico beehive, strapped to a narrow cart with bicycle wheels. The fabric is damp with the night, Snout tells us. He reaches in… something bites his finger! Inside the night is a dream. Inside the dream is a house. Inside the house, a mother tells her child a story. In the story, there’s a fish. Inside the fish, there’s the sound of something beating, boom-boom.
As well as being about dreams, 'There’s a Rabbit in the Moon' is structured by the logic of the dream. Toys, everyday objects, song lyrics, words from old stories and onomatopoeic sounds – all have equal status as things on stage. The connections made between them are loose at first, allusive, the echoes and rhymes building up over the course of the performance. A big drum (that is also the full moon); a drum roll rolling on the tongue (‘drrrrrrrrrrr’); a song in which a man sings ‘mon coeur fait boum’; a child – Pedro - who hears his own heart beating; a pocket watch that ticks: these things belong together.
The imagery is slightly old-fashioned: Snout has a battered top hat, long black coat, gaiters laced over pyjamas and a Shakespearian name (a character from the Dream – of course). But this is raw material, not scene-setting. As Walter Benjamin suggested, it is the just-obsolete that catches at our hearts, charged with potential. Alfred Jarry, a pataphysical figure with fishing rod and bicycle, also seems to haunt the piece – but that may just be my dream. We are trusted to make our own connections.
Charlot Lemoine and Tania Castaing of Vélo Théâtre are pioneers of the théâtre d’objets (object theatre). They don’t make anthropomorphic puppets out of objects but let objects stand for themselves. Occasionally they give things a nudge to release their surreal potential. A black trombone case becomes a coffin; adding a propeller lets it become a plane too.
Sometimes, Snout acknowledges, "night can be a real nightmare". At the end of the play, children are invited to bury something they fear, Snout eliciting their thoughts with real warmth and sympathetic understanding. With solemn rites, accompanied by trombone and kazoo, the coffin with its heavy freight – nightmares, vampires, polar bears, foxes – disappears into the darkness.
'There's a Rabbit in the Moon'