Kate Herbert is theatre reviewer, Herald Sun, Melbourne & formerly for Melbourne Times. Kate is a director & produced playwright (20 plays). Scripts published by Currency Press. She worked as an actor, comedian, improviser & teacher of Acting, Improvisation & Playwriting. Kate is currently Coordinator of Professional Writing and Editing, Swinburne University. Read her reviews here or at: www.heraldsun.com.au/entertainment/arts. NB Explorer Browser doesn't work on blog
Thursday, 6 September 2007
Dogs Barking, Richard Zajdlic, Sept 6, 2007
Dogs Barking By Richard Zajdlic by Rubber Dog Productions
Chapel offChapel, Thurs to Sat 8pm, Sun 6pm until Sept 6 to 16, 2007
Reviewer: Kate Herbert on Sept 6, 2007
Richard Zajdlic’s play, Dogs Barking, bears some resemblance to his successful British television series, This Life, a show that focussed on the fraught relationships of a group of 20-somethings.
Dogs Barking, directed by Sam Strong, depicts the last throes of a relationship and the nastiness that taints it. After a long absence, Neil (Grant Cartwright) returns to the flat he bought with his former girlfriend Alex (Melanie Coote). Having been dumped by his most recent romantic conquest, he invades Alex’s home and refuses to leave until she sells the flat or pays him his share of their investment.
Cartwright plays Neil effectively as an arrogant bully, a selfish, strutting stud accustomed to getting his own way. He is jealous of Alex’s new relationship and vindictively plans to remove all Alex’s belongings and usurp her home.
There is an edge of danger in their relationship. At any moment it seems that Neil’s seething rage could escalate into violence towards the quietly obliging Alex, her supercilious sister Vicky (Edwina Wren) or his loyal mate Splodge (Stefan Taylor), or Ray as he prefers to be called.
Zajdlic’s script is television naturalism not unsuccessfully brought to the stage. His dialogue is often gritty and always credible and his characters are vivid and believable. The final scene, however, a flashback to happier times between Neil and Alex, is an anti-climax after the explosive scenes that precede it.
Strong maintains the intensely claustrophobic environment of the flat with Alex trapped inside it with Neil, a caged and unpredictable animal. The performances are all commendable with Cartwright’s barely restrained anger affecting each relationship. Coote plays Alex with a quiet composure but could allow more of her inner turmoil to emerge in early scenes when she is dealing with the volatile Neil.
Wren brings an elegant and seductive quality to Vicky, Alex’s wealthy, idle and dissatisfied sister. Taylor captures the social awkwardness, simplicity and underlying kindness of Ray. His confusion about the entire messy situation between Neil and Alex is obvious.
What rings true in Zajdlic’s script is the foolishness of people’s reactions to past lovers, the absolutely uncontrollable nature of relationships and the often ugly messiness of their endings. It is excruciating to witness all four of these characters make stupid mistakes in their interactions with friends or partners.