Writer: Tim Crouch
Director: Karl James and Andy Smith
It’s an odd feeling, writing your career obituary.
But elements of writer and performer Tim Crouch’s Truth’s A Dog Must Kennel undoubtedly conjures a more morose feeling of the Fringe’s (and Theatres) return and future – one of apprehension and squandered opportunity. One where the bleakness of King Lear, the impending doom and war slither into the contemporary, as Crouch’s latest production into the metatextual nuance of theatre begins to question the why and what now of our craft.
In reverence to the spirit of Truth’s A Dog Must Kennel, in which we see what a character (not the performer) does in the encroaching darkness of the theatre when they are not on stage, so too will the ebb and flow of this appraisal stretch beyond the borders of the screen.
But first, for the PR side of things *ahem*:
‘Disarming, Tim Crouch’s manipulation of expectation and unease warps audiences into a homogenous pack of agreement – their latest venture, Truth’s a Dog Must to Kennel, feels paradoxically detached, yet in the gut of theatre itself. With a cannier understanding that any could imagine or hope for.’
‘Shakespeare’s Fool has always been the mastermind of the stage. And by this notion, Crouch is the biggest Fool in the room.’’
There’s the Pullquote. Job done. Now, if you’ll forgive us:
What is the point? Multiple crippling lockdowns rallied a stirring sentiment in the theatrical community that we would never return to the same stances – we would take this as an opportunity, not a detriment. We would innovate, progress, and diversify.
So where is it?
Crouch’s underlying speeches ring of what discussions surrounded the re-opening of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, a bloated mass which had the opportunity to learn in those two years, seems to have greedily returned to cramming as much content as it can feasibly squash into the backroom of every bar. With underhanded mechanics to ensure components receive a glowing spotlight, others a grim shunt into the corner.
An expansion of sorts, the Fool possesses the most insightful of the players in King Lear, oh how art imitates reality. And stepping back from his digital production of King Lear, Crouch draws on this aethereal being, away from the show to impart some wisdom on their own.
Fixing a Virtual Reality headset, Crouch wanders the Lyceum studio space, houselights on – no set, no lighting, just the occasional sounds of the production of King Lear he’s watching in a much grander, wealthier theatre. No doubt with a bar. There’s an evident fixation on the blurred lines of the digital and actual within Crouch’s writing, where the domain of physical space – of revolting expense and classism in the theatre makes way for an even playing field in the digital realm, but at what cost.
All that can be stated is an echo of sentiment about the importance of Crouch’s writing for UK theatre. That this act of ‘leaving’ the theatre, the liminal space, and returning has been marred and watered down more so than imagined. The magnificence of Crouch is the inevitable stance that, in demonstrating the casualties and failures, somehow ends up emboldening the significant draw of live theatre.
Existential queries seem to melt away as the narrative vitality finds footing, the precision and intensity of performance erupting, ever so gracefully, into a mastery of storytelling and a poignant reflection of the crossroads of theatre; an embracement of the strengths and drawbacks of the future, or the continued reverence of a broken, if shared, experience.
Runs at the Lyceum studio space until August 28th