Sunday, 3 April 2016

Review: The Delights of Dogs and the Problems of People, Courtyard Studio

"Some couples just seem to hate each other"

It's Robin and James' 5th wedding anniversary so he's filled her car with presents and sneaked into the kitchen to cook her a slap-up dinner. But he's been "away" for a while and it's safe to say she's not expecting it, the contours of their relationship slowly becoming evident as pieces of the jigsaw are retrospectively added. As it suggests in its title, Rosalind Blessed's The Delights of Dogs and the Problems of People thus contrasts the complexity of entangling oneself with another human compared to the simplicity of connecting with canine friends.

There's a boldness to elements of Blessed's writing that makes it a striking presence in the intimacy of the Courtyard's studio. The fourth wall is dismantled from the beginning as Duncan Wilkins' James and then Blessed's Robin chat to the audience directly, taking the he-said-she-said model to the next level with these extended POVs, allowing us real insight into where each character is coming from, their stories overflowing with nuanced detail about the essentially flawed nature of human existence.

But inbetween these uncompromising sections (and if you're on the front row, be prepared to be wrapped up in the action - yours truly ended up becoming a pivotal character called Brandon!), are numerous flashbacks, examining happier times in the shattered pieces of their marriage - mainly involving adventures with their rescue dog. These lack the same pointed adventurousness and intensity, leaving a rather unbalanced feel to the show which is exacerbated by an interval that doesn't feel altogether necessary.

So an interesting evening from director Rupert Holloway that is at its best when most disquieting and Blessed allows herself to be formally inventive. 

Running time: 1 hour 50 minutes (with interval)
Booking until 20th April

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