Preview: Rabbit, Old Red Lion Theatre, London

A daughter grabs a piece of the action
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The Independent Culture

It took Nina Raine, 29, a year to write the first draft of her debut play, Rabbit. "I'm not one of those writers who stay up all night working to get it done quickly," says Raine. The action takes place in a London bar - "somewhere like the Groucho Club" - where Bella, played by Charlotte Randal, is surrounded by friends and former lovers. It's her birthday party but she is unable to forget that her father lies dying of cancer.

"She is having a crisis in her late twenties," says Raine, "with all these mixed feelings and resentments towards her friends and ex-lovers - especially as they drink more and more alcohol. It's interspersed with dialogue that reflects how girls talk about sex in real life - but really, Bella needs to be resolving issues with her father."

Raine started her career in the theatre as a trainee director at the Royal Court, working with David Hare and Stephen Daldry. Her "lucky break" came in 1998, after she'd left Oxford University. "I put on a Pinter play [Ashes to Ashes] in a friend's house. Pinter got involved after I wrote to him." The playwright then gave her a walk-on part as a waitress in Celebration at the Almeida Theatre. "All I did was carry on plates and hold a tray," recalls Raine. "But I couldn't stop shaking with nerves. I'm no actress, but it meant I could sit in rehearsals and watch a writer-director at work."

Raine has recently directed Unprotected, at the Liverpool Everyman, about Liverpool's plans for a managed zone for street sex workers, which will also be performed at the Traverse Theatre in Edinburgh during the Fringe Festival. And she has just finished her second play, Tiger Country, about a female doctor who realises that her job is making her ill.

Nina Raine comes from a family of writers - her father is the poet Craig Raine, and Shrieks of Laughter by her 21-year-old brother Moses opens at Soho Theatre in the same week as Rabbit. "I know!" she says, laughing. "What a coincidence!"

16 May to 10 June (020-7837 7816; www.oldredliontheatre.co.uk)

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