THE Redlynch Players have never been afraid to push the boundaries of local theatre and experiment with unconventional stage ideas.

Their latest production of Watership Down saw a cast of nine, dressed in beanie hats with wire ears and scruffy grey and brown costumes, take on the epic Richard Adams tale of conflict and survival among rabbits.

After his brother has a premonition about the destruction of the Sandleford warren, Hazel is compelled to flee home along with Fiver, Blackberry, Bigwig and Holly.

As they seek a place to establish a new home, the five male rabbits quickly realise they will not survive for long without any females in the herd and so the adventure begins.

Although it was a little slow to start, it soon picked up pace with the arrival of Sarah Newman as the comically-rude seagull Kehaar, her squawks and insults provoking much laughter in the audience.

Graham Simpson was compelling as the skittish prophet Fiver, whose wisdom and visions are mistaken by some of the other rabbits as madness.

Mark Everett played the tough Bigwig with aplomb – his sarcasm and thirst for danger also aroused amusement among the crowd.

Also deserving of a mention is Mark Newman, who played the savage General Woundwort – the chief rabbit of Efrafa and the main antagonist of the play – with suitable disdain and aggression.

The four female rabbits of Efrafa were a voice-over, while the animation from the original 1978 film was projected onto a back screen.

Using a plain backdrop of hessian curtains and four sack-like pillars on stage, director Lloyd Perry pulled the focus onto the characters rather than the surroundings. He also paid particular attention to the lapine language created by Richard Adams in the novel - Frith (the sun) which is personified as a god by the rabbits; Elil (enemies) and Owsla (the ruling rabbits in the warren).

With simple movements and frantically fast talking to denote the rabbits’ easily-startled nature, the nine-strong cast proved that there is much more to playing a rabbit than wiggling your nose and hopping around on stage.

I thought it was a charming and fun-filled production.