Adelaide Fringe 2013
Lily demands an explanation from her fiancée Phil as to why their house is covered in blood splatters, Phil himself is coated head to toe in gore and holding a baseball bat, and there is what seems to be a corpse wrapped up in the living room rug. Phil explains that he’s being stalked by the raccoons that populate their newly adopted city of Toronto – ‘the raton laveur’.
Phil decided to take matters into his own hands, and kill the leader of the vermin, ‘The Raccoon King’. But is Phil telling the whole truth? Why was Lily absent during the attack? And what horrifying discovery awaits them when they finally dare to unwrap the rug look at what – or rather, who – Phil murdered?
Raton Laveur is not for the faint of heart. The play is set on a small stage surrounded by black walls, only the lamp hanging from the ceiling providing light, and blood is splashed everywhere. On the props, on the floor, and especially on one of our protagonists, Phil.
Phil is the fiancée of Lily, and is a character that embodies the archetype of the bumbling man-child. He dresses like a slob, is a bit slow, swings between goofy highs and hysterical lows, and insists on handling everything himself rather than calling in somebody more qualified, which inevitably makes things worse.
Lily is the responsible career woman. Fashionably dressed, practical, droll, domesticated, and demanding answers whenever Phil screws things up (which is often). But Lily is also a kind soul, a doting girlfriend who does her best to calm down her other half.
Lily’s patience is tested when Phil really does something bad, though. To be more specific, there is something dead and bleeding in the middle of their living room, and Lily is suspicious of Phil’s story of evil raccoons. Not only because it sounds crazy – and Phil really looks to be losing it – but because she is slowly starting to remember something terrible that happened in the past, and that something terrible is directly related to the corpse wrapped up in the rug…
The bait-and-switch that happens in the middle of the play is electrifying, and changes the plot dramatically. I can’t reveal what it is lest I spoil the play for you – and I highly recommend seeing this play – but it made me bolt upright in my seat, and the tension was so thick in the Bakehouse Theatre that you could have cut the air with a knife.
What makes the ruse even more shocking is the fact that even though this is an absurd situation – a man becoming homicidal because of rodents – the relationship between Phil and Lily is so fully realised and nuanced that it grounds the story in reality. Ben Noble and Wendy Bos are so believable as their characters, and the script so pitch black funny in how it paints a couple facing a bizarre crisis, that I was desperately hoping for them to find a way out of their situation, even though that hope was futile.
The excellent script, written by Amos Crawley, David Patrick Fleming and Caitlin Stewart, is helped by Alister’s Smith inspired direction. He goes by the golden rule of horror – the less you show the worse it becomes – and it pays off in spades. The production does more with just one ominous lamp than most productions do with a sophisticated light show.
Raton Laveur is many things. It’s a twisted thriller about one man’s war with his own mind and resident mammals, a dark sitcom about a bickering odd couple, and a doomed love story between two people swept up in a situation which becomes as sinister-as-heck when the secret twist is revealed. But most of all, it is a fantastic show, and I enjoyed it immensely.