Writer: Jacqueline Saphra
Director: Tamar Saphra
Reviewer: Stephen Bates
It’s a dog’s life in Jaqueline Saphra’s new one-act play, a creepy canine thriller, directed by her own daughter. Family pet Luna has been a naughty girl, stealing chicken from the dinner table and then…well, best not to tell more. Her punishment is to be shut in a small box room, from which she can hear muffled voices and lots of things that go bump in the night.
The play is a single-hander, performed by Amy McAllister as Luna, who is cut off from the rest of her “pack” with only a bean bag, a blanket and a rubber ball for some comfort. And a few odd shoes are hidden beneath the floorboards. Also in the house are the rest of Luna’s pack – Ma, Pa and their daughter, the dog’s beloved “Ellie girl”, but we only hear them. Their conversations are incomprehensible to Luna, but, instinctively, she understands that something is wrong and she becomes desperate to fulfil what she sees as her duty to protect Ellie.
Luna has a sorry back story, having been abandoned by her first owner to become a stray and then falling victim to an imposing Labradoodle. None of her puppies survived. Now, in relative comfort, she cherishes cuddling up to Ellie and a sense of belonging, even if obeying all the house rules is proving a little difficult for her.
Occasionally, the writer loses the scent and goes off track by concentrating in too much detail on doggy things. Her play, is, in fact, a thinly-disguised parable about the nightmare of helplessness, the fear common to humans and canines of being aware that a loved one is in danger, but being unable to go to their assistance. By tapping into human paranoia, Saphra asks whether a dog’s primal instincts and reactions are very much different from our own.
McAllister’s movement and facial expressions are consistently engaging, but, overall, visual elements are of only marginal benefit to Tamar Saphra’s production. Essentially, this is a radio play, all about words and noises, and maybe it would be better if experienced at home, alone, at night and with all the lights switched off.
Runs until 20 April 2019 | Image: Ali Wright