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Stray Dogs

by on 30 June 2021

An Air of Authenticity

Stray Dogs

by Matt Wixey

Anarchy Division at Bread and Roses Theatre, Clapham until 30th June

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Review by Denis Valentine

Stray Dogs is a timely and interesting snapshot into parts of the lives and mind-sets of two people working within the Police Force and offers a certain perspective at a time where police relations and practices are rife in the public consciousness.  The fact that it is written by an ex-officer adds an immediate air of authenticity to what’s about to be witnessed and keeps the lingering question of just how much is this based on real events and personal testimony throughout.    

Firstly the two actors – Catherine Adams as Mason and Bridges played by Richard de Lisle – are both very strong in their roles and show great versatility when they transition from directly interviewing each other, to audience addresses, as well as moments which require them to briefly inhabit different characters and voices. 

Adams switches well early on, from the hardened interviewer into a more informative persona, with whom the audience can relate more to and trust to gain some insight behind the ‘Officer’ (which as the play later suggests are just one and the same). 

With the #MeToo movement being in the current public consciousness, the play and Adams deliver a harrowing example in one scene, about some of the issues of a patriarchal dominated society and how it can affect at all levels.  The desperation and helplessness in the way Adams brilliantly delivers the lines here really leave a lasting impact. 

As Bridges, de Lisle does well to really embody the play’s tag line – “There are old coppers, and there are good coppers.  There are no old good coppers.” – through his character work and gives the hints of the man before the beaten-down realities of the job takes its toll. 

The dialogue is delivered in slick, well-crafted fashion and it is impossible for it not to be reminiscent of some of the great police interrogation scenes popularised most recently, by shows such as Line of Duty – “I don’t recall” being the “no comment” of the day.   

Despite raising interesting ideas and relevant notions about the current state of policing with its strong performances, and at times slick theatrical moments, the play itself suffers in the homestretch as it becomes more apparent that the actual stakes of what’s going on won’t be properly addressed or concluded.  Where it would be nice to have a defining moment to what’s just gone on for nearly an hour from a theatrical standpoint, there is just more monologuing and despite the strong performances the piece slightly fades away in the last ten minutes. 

Director Erica Miller gives her actors a lot of space for their performances and keeps things ticking a long at a good steady pace. 

The tech aspect of the play is well handled and special mention must go to a scene where the stage darkens with a narrow spotlight and blue flashing lights allowing de Lisle to shine as Bridges attempts CPR on a suspect. 

Overall Stray Dogs offers a decent partial insight into the minds of seasoned police work and raises questions and themes relevant to the time.  The ending feels like a slight missed opportunity but much of what precedes it makes it a good watchable return to theatre.   

Denis Valentine, June 2021

Photography by Josephine Baker

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