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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


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Octopus Soup!

Theatre Royal Windsor & UK Tour

Octopus Soup

Octopus Soup!

Theatre Royal Windsor

Reviewed – 1st April 2019



“In spite of the dogged efforts of the cast, the audience just didn’t get many of the jokes”


Billed as ‘an instant modern classic like ‘The Play that Goes Wrong’’, Jack Milner and Mark Stevenson’s ‘Octopus Soup!’ is a new British farce, developed and premiered by the Belgrade Theatre, Coventry, before a national tour which continues to May 4.

Where would theatre be without farce? At its best and in the hands of masters like Ayckbourn or Feydeau its ingredients are brilliant wit, sexual intrigue, and a lot of ‘business’ as comedic stereotypes get utterly confounded by impossible situations. But is the recipe right for this particular bouillabaisse?

‘Octopus Soup!’ has an accomplished and hard-working cast, admirably led by Nick Hancock, who helped to create and then presented ‘Room 101’ for seven years from its inception in 1992. He plays the risk-averse but increasingly desperate insurance man Seymour Norse who is about to make the biggest presentation of his life to the CEO of GIT, a troubled insurance company (an authoritative and satisfying performance by Gillian Bevan, who recently appeared as Theresa May in Channel 4’s ‘The Windsors’).

Before a word of dialogue is spoken, Seymour Norse has lost his trousers. A predictable enough part of the mix, but pretty wasted at the top of the show. The arrival of a blundering burglar (a smart performance by Paul Bradley) stirs up the plot, which then takes a few fishy twists before a fairly predictable ending. Norse’s nervy wife is wittily played by Carolyn Backhouse, a regular at the Chichester Festival Theatre. Eric Richard makes a satisfying appearance as a nasty underworld boss with a taste for seal sanctuaries. Terry the octopus twitches, a bullet is fired. Thanks to a well-known casserole company, which got the biggest laugh of the evening, someone is dead, or are they? So much for the slide presentation and for the plot, which stretches pretty thinly over the evening.

Actors often say that a play that seems lack-lustre one night will shine the next, simply because of the mood of one audience compared to another. I have to report that the audience in Windsor on Monday weren’t hungry for octopus soup. The fault seemed to lie not with the performances, or the set, or even the slightly dodgy sound effects, but with the writing. Many of the jokes relied on fairly improbable malapropisms of the ‘Ethics? – I come from there!’ kind. In spite of the dogged efforts of the cast, the audience just didn’t get many of the jokes, particularly in the limping first act.

The final line sank like a damp soufflé, and the cast seemed only too quick to leave the stage.


Reviewed by David Woodward

Photography by Robert Day



Octopus Soup!

Theatre Royal Windsor until 6th April then UK Tour continues


Previous shows covered by this reviewer:
Teddy | ★★★★★ | Watermill Theatre Newbury | January 2018
The Rivals | ★★★★★ | Watermill Theatre Newbury | March 2018
A Midsummer Night’s Dream | ★★★★ | Watermill Theatre Newbury | May 2018
Jerusalem | ★★★★★ | Watermill Theatre Newbury | June 2018
Trial by Laughter | ★★★★ | Watermill Theatre Newbury | September 2018
Jane Eyre | ★★★★ | Watermill Theatre Newbury | October 2018
Murder For Two | ★★★★ | Watermill Theatre Newbury | February 2019
The Trials Of Oscar Wilde | ★★★★ | Theatre Royal Windsor | March 2019


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