Star Rating: ***
Chiswick, London W4
Review date: Saturday 8th April 2017
Director: Keith Strachan
To die or not to die, that is the question? That sums up the essential question raised in Richard Harris’ dark comedy, ‘Dog Ends.’ Despite the serious nature of the opening question it’s more of a comedic farce than an examination of existential questions about the right to die. I’m not saying that’s not covered. It is, as you ponder this whilst observing the character’s reactions – mainly nonplussed re either the dog or Granddad, with the exception of son George.
The play marked the re-opening of the revamped Tabard Theatre in Chiswick. I must say I didn’t notice too much difference inside. The biggest change was an invisible one. The arrival of air conditioning! It was the hottest day of the year (so far) at 21c and so this was most welcome and a refreshing change from the often sweltering conditions that used to be found in the Tabard theatre.
The story initially focuses on middle-aged George, played by Nick Wilton (formerly of East Enders amongst many other shows) who is under increasing emotional and financial pressure looking after his beloved dog. He is introduced by his neighbourhood friend Henry to a vet who can put the dog out of its misery. What he doesn’t realise is that this vet also practices euthanasia!
At the same time his father, played by Bryan Hands, is suffering from old age and not doing too well at all. Suffice to say when the vet comes calling and certain people are missing from the room, we have a recipe for disaster.
Act I was a little ponderous at times and it’s length could have been cut down a lot, allowing the pace to pick up a lot and accelerate much more quickly towards the main action of this Act. It was interesting nonetheless to watch the build up to the inevitable. The play could have given more attention to the dilemma’s and difficulties around looking after an elderly relative without losing the humour of it. I’ve done that and it’s not easy. There can be considerations and decisions to be made re living arrangements – at home or going into care? If at home who cares for the relative or how is the care shared around family members? What’s best for the cared for and how do you do the “right thing”? That’s a debate in itself as what you and others may consider to be the right thing, might not be how the cared for relative sees it and legally have the right to disagree with and over rule anything you might wish to do, even if it is not in their best interests. There were so many issues that could have been explored before arriving at the dog ends so to speak!
Act II was a lot more lively, spiky and full of witty, dark humour. The delayed response from most of the characters in realising what had happened was implausibly slow, but that helped built a degree of tension and comedy of errors as you waited to see how long it would take for the penny to drop.
Dog Ends is a tasty little morsel of a play, but it could have been far more fulfilling and packed a far stronger bite with sharper editing, more realistic character reactions to events and a deeper exploration of the issues surrounding caring for the elderly, be they relatives or dogs!
© Tiemo Talk of the Town
Photos courtesy of Alastair Hilton
Dog Ends runs from 22nd March until 15th April 2017 at the Tabard Theatre