Review: Dog Show by Kandinsky

DogShowFrom the publicity, it’s difficult to anticipate what this show is going to be before you see it. Its billing, as “part-silent film, part-thriller”, based on the case of the Hong Kong Serial Dog Killer, promises a dark and dour production which belies its engaging, comic and whimsical nature. Performed by four actors, who each take two parts – one of a dog owner and the other of a dog – it weaves the stories of four disparate souls whose commonality (if you excuse the pun) lies in the fact that they all walk their dogs on Hampstead Heath.

Harriet Webb plays Pamela, a no-nonsense dog trainer / shower whose world is tied up in her pedigree King Charles Spaniel; and Maloney, a guide dog obsessed with the smells of her world. Lisa Kerr plays Daisy, a carer who treats her toy-dog as a child, dressing him up and baby-talking him to embarrassing proportions; and Greer, the snooty show dog with a true sense of her own worth. Hamish Macdougall plays Keith, a bitter, blind widower who shuns human contact; and Duke, a gruff mastiff who is the first to fall victim to the poisoner; and Ntonga Mwanza plays Michael, a quiet man who becomes obsessed with catching the criminal; and Buttons, the over-pampered pug.

The action is fast and furious as we journey with the characters, looking for the poisoner but learning more about the multitude of reasons for the human obsession with dogs. But it is the dogs themselves who make the show. Each is a beautifully-studied characterisation, and it is clear which breed each actor is playing even without the clues in the dialogue. The dogs never talk, apart from Maloney from whom tumbles a constant stream-of-consciousness of the smells which fill her world, beautifully echoing her owners’ visual impairment. But their physicality and attitude perfectly conveys the traits of their breed, with the honours going, by a fraction, to Ntonga Mwanza as Buttons the pug.

The action is complemented by musician, Zac Gvirtzman, who also composed the incidental music underpinning and punctuating the story, and who performs live with the actors, adding another dimension to the piece. Brilliantly directed by James Yeatman, written by Al Smith and devised by the cast and creative team, including Producer, Lauren Mooney, this is a peach of a show, and you leave the theatre entertained and eminently satisfied with an evening well-spent. I thoroughly recommend this show and I wouldn’t hesitate to buy a ticket to see the next Kandinsky production.

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