Tag Archives: Harry Burton

The Dog Walker

The Dog Walker

★★

Jermyn Street Theatre

The Dog Walker

The Dog Walker

Jermyn Street Theatre

Reviewed – 14th February 2020

★★

 

“despite flashes of real humanity, clever staging and spirited performances, we risk feeling underwhelmed by a narrative that feels easy to predict”

 

The Dog Walker brings us two characters at sea in the lonely but oppressive expanse of New York. We meet our pair during a heatwave, but by the end, the storm has broken – in more ways than one.

Victoria Yeates is Keri; bitter, drunk, raging. Herbert Doakes (Andrew Dennis) is the unsuspecting dog walker who comes to collect her Pekingese, Wolfgang. Wolfgang is, it transpires, an ex-Pekingese. So begins a torrid ride, as we see these lost souls navigate around and towards one another.

Writer Paul Minx is focusing on the brokenness of so many people and so much of city life, and the flows of the power dynamics between – and grief of – Keri and Herbert are cleverly handled, ebbing tidally through the production. Minx tells us that the character of Keri is based on someone he recalls from his time living in New York in the 90s, a woman who ‘lived in a sleeping bag under the stairs leading up to my local Chinese laundry… Every morning she’d get up, fold her sleeping bag, and begin her day’s screaming’. This perhaps explains some of the complexity of Keri’s character, and the challenges too; we see her behaving erratically but the play misses a chance to really scrutinise mental illness, grief and loneliness in lieu of a female character who lacks shades of grey until the closing scenes.

Keri shouts – a lot. She cusses and rages at Doakes, who, at first at least, accepts her treatment with an implacability born of his devout faith. Both characters, who are hard to like at the start albeit for very different reasons, melt into softness and vulnerability; without a doubt, the final act is the most affecting. This is helped by a twist or two, where it becomes clear that neither party has been telling the whole truth. The verve of these revelations animates the production and would benefit from being paced a little earlier, to avoid what can feel like a hollow shouting match in the first half.

The performances are strong, with a real sense of these actors claiming the characters in this new writing as their own. Dennis’ Jamaican accent is excellent when he hits his stride, evening out through the performance after risking being distractingly wobbly at first. And, as ever at the Jermyn, despite the compact space the set design (Isabella Van Braeckel) is evocative and the sound and lighting (Fergus O’Hare and Tom Turner) are exceptional. The effect of hearing people calling up to Keri from the street level ‘below’ is especially clever, as are the flickering lights when we shift into the almost supernatural closing scene.

The ending, though, feels a little too pat, with a fragile promise of redemption that comes unconvincingly hot on the heels of a trauma in the closing moments. Ultimately, The Dog Walker’s odd couple narrative is not a new one; there are plenty of precedents of city oddballs finding each other in theatre, tv and film. As such it’s hard for this world premiere to carve out much that’s new, and, despite flashes of real humanity, clever staging and spirited performances, we risk feeling underwhelmed by a narrative that feels easy to predict.

 

Reviewed by Abi Davies

Photography by Robert Workman

 


The Dog Walker

Jermyn Street Theatre until 7th March

 

Last ten shows reviewed at this venue:
Miss Julie | ★★★ | April 2019
Pictures Of Dorian Gray (A) | ★★★ | June 2019
Pictures Of Dorian Gray (B) | ★★★ | June 2019
Pictures Of Dorian Gray (C) | ★★★★ | June 2019
Pictures Of Dorian Gray (D) | ★★ | June 2019
For Services Rendered | ★★★★★ | September 2019
The Ice Cream Boys | ★★★★ | October 2019
All’s Well That Ends Well | ★★★★ | November 2019
One Million Tiny Plays About Britain | ★★★ | December 2019
Beckett Triple Bill | ★★★★★ | January 2020

 

Click here to see our most recent reviews

 

 

Out There on Fried Meat Ridge Road

Trafalgar Studios

Opening Night – 4th May 2017

 

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

 

“a hugely enjoyable 67 minutes of comedy, farce and randomness”

 

The title of this play “Out there on Fried Meat Ridge Road” indicates the level of randomness that you are about to watch in this play written by Keith Stevenson.

Entering the theatre you instantly feel part of the play thanks to a brilliant set by Simon Scullion who has created the feel of a rundown West Virginia motel room perfectly. The set engulfs the auditorium and you feel as if you are in the motel room with the characters.

The play centers around a highly uptight and anxiety ridden Mitch (Robert Moloney) who is having a bad day – no make that year! Moving from Maine to West Virginia for a new start life quickly things go wrong – he loses his job, girl friend, car and home all in quick succession. In desperation he answers an ad for a flat share with JD.

JD (Keith Stevenson) dominates the stage not just due to his physical size but with his presence and personality. He is a simple, kind man who has the ability to see the good in everyone. As each character enters the stage he looks further than their stereotype and shows the audience that there is more to the crazy crack head Marlene (Melanie Gray), the adulterous Tommy (Alex Ferns) and the racist and bigoted Flip (Michael Wade).

The play is an enjoyable 67 minutes of comedy, farce and randomness. Some of the jokes and one liners are predictable but amusing all the same. The acting is high quality – they portray their characters well and give them a depth that makes you believe in their stories from the moment they set foot on stage. The ability of JD to make you see through the stereotypes and his generous, kind-hearted nature make you want to walk out and spread some love to the first stranger you encounter.

Leaving wanting to watch the next installment of the story makes you think that this would be better suited to a TV show rather than a stage play. At times I could imagine the canned laughter piped into the set!

Overall a heartwarming play that has you chuckling your way through the 67 minutes. It is a play perfectly suited to a small intimate venue allowing the audience to absorb themselves in the show.

 

 

Production Photography by Gavin Watson

 

 

Out There on Fried Meat Ridge Road

is at Trafalgar Studios until 3rd June

 

CLICK HERE FOR TICKETS

 

 

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