Writers &devisers: James Yeatman, Zac Gvirtzman, Lisa Kerr, Hamish Macdougall, Ntonga Mwanza, Harriet Webb, Al Smith and Laura Mooney
Director: James Yeatman
Reviewer: Deborah Klayman
From the cosiness of the West Hampstead Women’s Institute to the wilds of the heath, allow Kandinsky to introduce you to the local dogs, their owners, and the community that they unknowingly weave together.
Part comedy – part thriller, Dog Show draws on the true-life tale of the Hong Kong dog poisoner to add intrigue and drama to the piece. Imaginatively staged by Kandinsky co-founder and former Complicite director James Yateman, the four-strong cast bring to life countless characters and canine companions in ninety short minutes – all ably underscored by onstage composer/musician Zac Gvirtzman.
Harriet Webb is outstanding as champion dog-trainer Pamela: sharp and direct, her efficiency and drive have helped her Cavalier – Greer (Lisa Kerr) – to five “best-in-show” rosettes. Equally, Hamish Macdougall is superb as blind, brusque ex-boxer Keith, who is angry at the world and struggling to cope with a new way of life. Ntonga Mwanza is compelling as dog-owner Michael – and hilarious as uncontrollable pug, Buttons – while Kerr showcases amazing physical agility and control as Greer and wonderful innocence as Daisy, who despite feeling overwhelmed remains positive and hopeful.
This is a show that could comfortably existand undoubtedly entertain, by relying only on the well-observed animal mannerisms and oft hilarious physical comedy. What is entirely unexpected, however, are the moments of heart-breaking poignancy and the undercurrent of raw social commentary that underpin the play. As their dogs are taken away from them, cracks in the characters’ lives begin to show, and it is Michael who fights to draw the community together, spurred on by a shared sense of loss.
This is a wholly integrated piece, with live music and soundscape, intricate lighting design, and a thoughtfully constructed set. Everything is moveable, so the options are limitless; the cast mould, manipulate, reuse and recycle all of the elements to first add tension then break it as desired. The dénouement feels somewhat sudden, but perhaps that is because the time flies and the audience is left, as perhaps they should be, wanting more.
Intricate, compelling, hilarious, moving and multifaceted; seeing this show is worth giving your best friend a night in the kennels.
Runs until 17 October 2015 | Image: Richard Davenport