Kit Brookman on a Rabbit for Kim Jong-il


This play is not a true story, but it is inspired by one.

In 2006, in Germany, a breeder of giant rabbits was approached by the North Korean government to acquire a number of his rabbits, ostensibly for a breeding program to be set up in North Korea. He agreed to sell his rabbits. No one quite knows what happened next, except that his invitation to go to North Korea to oversee the creation of a rabbit-breeding program was abruptly cancelled without explanation.

How does one grapple with the idea of North Korea? The concurrent absurdity and horror of the place makes for a confusing mix. It’s the world’s most isolated nation, repressive at home and belligerent abroad. We’re used to hearing strange stories, most of which stem from what might be called the eccentricities of its tyrannical ruling dynasty. Many of these seem too strange to be true. They defy belief.

A recent UN enquiry into atrocities committed in North Korea found that the actions of the Kim regime have caused the deaths of “at the very least hundreds of thousands of human beings.” This, too, in its horrific way, defies belief. There are some crimes so large that the mind bends when it tries to comprehend the scale of their brutality.

This play, clearly, is not and does not aim to be a naturalistic representation of the events that inspired it, or of the true situation in recent times in North Korea, but that truth hovers at its shoulder as the waking world sits beside a dream, or nightmare. It is a fable about guilt and forgiveness, about the things we are willing to ignore in order to succeed, and the price we pay for having ignored them when we do.

The play was written with the assistance of Playwriting Australia and the Robertson Family Foundation, and I’m grateful for their support. It was written while I was a member of the Griffin Studio and I’d like to thank the generous donors who make that program possible. A big thank-you also to Lee Lewis for her intelligent guidance in the development of the script and for her determination to realise it. Thank you also to the actors who assisted in the play’s development, the cast and creative team of this production, and everyone at Griffin.

And thanks, as always, to Luke.

Kit Brookman

Kit Brookman’s Rabbit for Kim Jong-il plays from 10 October – 21 November, more info + book tickets.