Dog Play Dead, Edfringe Preview

Anybody who is fortunate enough to be in travelling distance of Theatre 503 knows that at present they're running a fab season pre-Edinburgh previews. This review is for a show which ran on 27th July. Written by Anna Thomas-Jones for up-and-coming theatre company Well-Behaved Women, Dog Play Dead is a black comedy with a difference – all the parts are played by women.

The play begins with the four friends imbibing at a plush abode. It later becomes apparent that this isn't their place, but belongs to someone in the 'Family' business and that they are meant to be looking after the homeowner's dalmatian dog while he's on holiday. The following morning, asides from a few sore heads, everything is normal - except for a pool of red on the kitchen floor.

"Where has the dog gone?" "Is that blood on the kitchen floor?" "Who's that entering the house now?" Questions abound as it dawns on them that the dalmatian may have been dogknapped and that they may not live for too much longer either. Moreover, the group still isn't in agreement about what is the best biscuit: bourbons or custard creams...

As well as writing the play, Thomas-Jones also plays PB, the daughter of the Mafia boss who returns home unexpectedly. In contrast to the rest of the characters who are worried sick about their fate, PB is calm, collected and quite erudite. This in itself perturbs the other characters for there is nothing more unnerving than someone who has every right to be angry, speaking in an articulate, measured fashion! In some ways PB’s restrained demeanour reminded me as a cross between Javier Bardem's serial killer Anton Chigurh in No Country For Old Men and the film noir actor Peter Lorre. The calm before the storm...

All the actors delivered fine performances, but of all the (not-so) well-behaved ladies in the play, the one that stood out for me was Sophie Mackenzie. An associate artist with West Avenue Theatre company, I've seen from previous productions the energy she brings to her roles which are often funny, full of emotion and always leaving an impact on her surroundings. I pleased to say in Dog Play Dead she's just as exemplary (though I will have to disagree with her character and say custard creams are better than bourbons)!

Asides from what's already been discussed, Dog Play Dead distinguishes itself by not only having female characters that individually and collectively are agents of change, romance, relationships and their accompanying dramas are conspicuously absent.  This play is about a group of young women who get themselves into a spot of bother, but through their own efforts try to resolve their situation. In short, it would pass the Bechdel Test with flying colours.

© Michael Davis

Dog Play Dead will be playing on August 24th-29th at theSpace on the Mile: Space One (Radisson Blu, 80 High Street, Edinburgh, EH1 1TH).

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