Tabard Theatre, London – until 15 April 2017
Guest reviewer: Charly Ralph
Richard Harris’s dark comedy Dog Ends had its stage premiere this week at the Tabard Theatre in Chiswick. As a genre, dark comedy is often used to shed a new, amusing, light on topics that are traditionally considered as serious. And Dog Ends certainly does just that.
Delving into themes ranging from euthanasia to this generation’s inability to detach themselves from a mobile phone, Dog Ends focuses on the life of an average British family as they deal with Grandad’s demise. Harris’s dialogue is as witty and endearing as you would expect from such a celebrated writer within the industry. A master of comedy, with previous works including Outside Edge and Stepping Out, Dog Ends had the audience laughing from start to finish.
Anita Graham’s portrayal of Beatrice is a definite highlight. Her often deadpan delivery combined with outstanding timing made for perfect viewing, and the on stage partnership with husband George only enhanced her charm.
Nick Wilton depicted the grumpy dad character of George brilliantly, animated in both speech and movement. Wilton is also the only one to demonstrate any real emotion regarding the loss of his father, providing the audience with the most honest and poignant moment of the play.
The second act called for the majority of the cast to be together on stage a great deal, with Director Keith Strachan increasing the pace of the piece in a positive way. Dialogue flowed and the cast bounced off one another naturally, whilst working in such close proximity, as all the action takes place in just one room of the family home.
A muted living room delivers the ideal backdrop for this intimate production. Michael Leopold’s clever design and neutral colour palette creates a homey atmosphere on stage, without diverting attention away from the actors. Adam King’s lighting was subtle but effective, differentiating between night and day whilst keeping Grandad’s chair in focus throughout.
Sadly, one prop was slightly distracting, and that was the youngest member of the ensemble. Both bump and baby were somewhat unrealistic which led to a few tentative movements from those interacting with them. However, these moments were brief and the cast’s energy quickly enticed the audience back into the action.
Dog Ends will make you laugh out loud, recoil in shock, and then laugh again. Exactly as a dark comedy should.