The Dog / The Cat
Reviewed – 6th September 2018
“two delightful romantic comedies with memorable characters we’d gladly see more of”
Where would we be without our pets?
This is the question posed by ‘The Dog/The Cat’, a charming and laugh-out-loud funny double-bill by multi-talented Australian playwrights Brendan Cowell and Lally Katz. Existing in the same surreal yet recognisable urban world, these short romantic-comedy pieces are refreshingly different in tone and style, working in harmony to produce a wonderfully bizarre evening of escapism and hilarity.
Although the weaker of the two plays, the evening kicks off with Cowell’s ‘The Dog’. Each scene takes place around a park bench as we follow the story of divorcee Ben (Thomas Blackburne), his roommate Marcus (Frederick Di Rosa) and university lecturer Miracle (Gemma Harvey) negotiating a tricky love triangle centred around a shared emotional dependency on dogs. ‘The Cat’ enters a more sedate yet surreal world where recently separated couple Albert and Alex, whose indecision about procreation led to the co-ownership of a cat, try to embrace new lives as single-and-misbehaving twenty-somethings. The titular cat, expertly played by Blackburne, glides elegantly from point of contention to burden to bringer of peace, disturbing new relationships whilst cunningly strengthening old ones.
Seen together, we experience two delightful romantic comedies with memorable characters we’d gladly see more of. ‘The Dog’ presents the awkwardness and egotism often found when people meet for the first time all-too realistically. Katz’ short play is an actor’s dream; it bubbles with outrageous characters representing the silly lures of urban life, whilst maintaining a core of emotional truth. Di Rosa, Blackburne and Harvey all work together beautifully, giving physically precise and hilarious performances. Blackburne, a veteran of Australian television and film, gives an uncannily good performance as ‘Cat’, and his expressive face working with well-timed lighting changes left the audience roaring with laughter. Both playwrights are well-known in Australia and these pieces in their own right well-deserve being transferred to a bigger space.
Sharon Burrell’s direction could have been a little kinder to the audience, but the simplicity of the design is maintained throughout and allows the focus to remain on character dynamics and relationships. We see the brutal honesty of male friendship and the brutal power of fate (or at least, fate as dictated by a cat). The pretensions of urban life are ridiculed for all they’re worth – “Crossfit is a cult” – and the jokes (for the audiences’ enjoyment at least) come thick and fast.
As a combined force, these two plays are bursting with odd and original ideas and offer a near-perfect start to a great night out.
Reviewed by Joseph Prestwich
Photography by Joe Twigg
The Dog / The Cat
Hope Theatre until 22nd September