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A Dog’s Solution

by on 12 September 2021

Barking up the Wrong Tree

A Dog’s Solution

by Richard Franklin

Charterhouse Square Productions at Baron’s Court Theatre, The Curtains Up until 2nd October

Review by Eleanor Lewis

Beyoncé is a street-dweller, she has a home but it’s chaotic and she prefers the street and the companionship of her ‘dog’ Jimmy.  Alongside this she worries about the state of the planet and where climate change and other related world issues will lead.  Over the course of an hour and a bit (including a ten-minute interval), and with the help of Jimmy and several other characters, Beyoncé examines the future of the developed world via a mix of metatheatre, a little pantomime and a dash of school play.  Such is A Dog’s Solution, which is running at Baron’s Court Theatre until October.

Opening with what might be a conventional story line the play then widens out.  Two young men appear from time to time and offer small vignettes and explanatory asides as chorus characters.  There is also a mysterious Old Bag Person with philosophical insights (and a rich father), a Lobbyist and a suited corporate-type to complete the spectrum of present day world influences.  After the interval the audience is involved in the proceedings, voting, winning virtual prizes etc, in a section that’s valid but needs a clearer point than it currently has. 

The actors in this work can only be praised.  Carolyn McCallion’s performance as Beyoncé was mature, authentic and rather elegant.  Benedict Esdale, as Jimmy the dog was endearing in a challenging role; Chris Monplaisir suitably eccentric as the Bag Person, and Casey Jones and Oscar Farmer, despite a slight air of self-consciousness, worked well together as Gus and Tom, the chorus pair.  David (Marc Gordon) and Constansia (Seden Asti Eron) as corporate man and lobbyist were a little underwritten as characters and therefore left with not much to do, but nonetheless acquitted themselves well with what they did have.  Placing those two characters in the action more often might have provided more balance to the argument and prevented it from losing focus.

A Dog’s Solution is (I think) an ambitious attempt to examine global politics, interrogate the means by which we’ve arrived at our present difficult point, and explain why we are all, probably, doomed.  There are a fair few Brechtian elements to this drama, which give it quite a bit of potential.  In the meantime there are seven professional actors doing the best they can with it, but in its current state the direction is weak and the writing needs to be sharper.  Direction (Eratle Wang) in particular needs to be more effective.  There was an apparent lack of confidence in some of the actors suggesting they were not entirely comfortable with the material they were playing.  Similarly, attempts to engage the audience, whilst no bad thing per se (and popular at present), must be contrived so that they are controllable and cannot drag the focus off the dramatic narrative.

That said, writer Richard Franklin has created the first draft of what will eventually be an interesting play for our times.  The Curtains Up pub and its little theatre is a welcoming and happily eccentric venue; it’s well worth a visit.  

Eleanor Lewis, September 2021

Photography by Alice Lubbock 

From → Drama, Fringe

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