“Liam Mansfield is excellent as Scott the Scottish Terrier, the Sherlock Holmes of our story with a feisty attitude and a lot of tartan.”
Have you ever wondered what actually goes on in the mind of your canine friend? Does he interpret things the same way you do? Does she sense trouble a mile off? Do they know more than they are letting on?
Well fear not, as writer and director Stephanie Withers takes you on an intriguing journey of the notorious 2015 Crufts Dog Show poisoning, told from the perspective of our puppy pals.
‘Off the Middle’ is a theatre company dedicated to producing quality new-writing and creative storytelling. Liam Mansfield is excellent as Scott the Scottish Terrier, the Sherlock Holmes of our story with a feisty attitude and a lot of tartan.
Both Stephanie de Whalley and Paul Hilliar switch between radically different characters throughout the performance, from high maintenance Fluffy the Chihuahua to ex Andrex puppy star Lucy the Labrador.
Withers, herself a huge fan of dogs, plays on all the stereotypes in this work. Fluffy’s line ‘people just love a dog they can pop in their handbag’ not only makes the audience laugh but allows them to imagine the sort of person who would own a dog like Fluffy. Are dogs really similar to their owners? Delving into the competitive politics of dog shows, our characters portray just how cut-throat these events can be and how far participants are willing to go to win or defend their titles.
Highlights from the performance include the fantastic array of props (or should I say, many different sets of animal ears) the constant classic dog puns ‘barking mad’, ‘teach an old dog new tricks’ and one of my personal favourite scenes whereby our narrator, Scott the Scottish Terrier, is put on the spot to perfectly execute his dog show routine whilst preoccupied with questions about who poisoned Serena the Setter.
Can he remain a champion under all of this stress?
Between the 10th and 22nd July, The King’s Head Theatre will be opening its doors to Festival 47, three weeks of new writing from “the UK’s most exciting, bold and ambitious emerging companies”. One of those companies is Off The Middle who will be showcasing their new spoof murder-mystery, Lead Suspect. We asked writer and director Stephanie Withers about the show and about Off The Middle’s plans for “exciting, playful and relevant new writing” …
As a company we are really interested in playing with the audience and performer relationship. We want the audience to be more actively engaged, to have a more personal connection to the performers and story.
Celeste Dodwell and Matthew Seager in the company’s critically acclaimed ‘In Other Words’ (Photo – Alex Fine)
For ‘In Other Words’ we did this in an intimate way; the audience were lit during the show, actors spoke to them frankly and openly, and they sat so close to the actors it made them feel like they were in our characters front room. For ‘Lead Suspect’ it is a more playful dynamic, where the audience are referenced throughout, and often lend a helping hand to our actors onstage.
Lead Suspect – Rehearsals
Though the two subject matters couldn’t be further apart; a moving love story concerning a couple’s experience of Alzheimer’s disease, and a spoof murder-mystery where actors play dogs who solve the crime, we know both shows are rooted in playfulness, creative storytelling, and celebrate the live-ness of theatre.
At the moment telling stories through creative means is something that really interests us, whether that’s through actors playing dogs, or doing a play that spans a 50 year timeframe within an hour, we want to make theatre that provokes creativity and sparks an audiences imagination.
Lead Suspect is a show inspired by the curious case of the 2015 Crufts dog show poisoning. In this unique comedy dog murder mystery actors tell us the story through the eyes of the canine competitors, and solve the crime. Join unlikely hero Scott the Scottish Terrier as he investigates and asks the age old question, was it the Pug or the Poodle?
is at the King’s Head Theatre from the 17th to 20th July
To get your paws on limited £10 tickets add code ‘doggystyle’ if you have a valid student card, or upload a picture of yourself and a canine friend to @OTM_Theatre with #leadsuspect, for a separate £10 code