Jermyn Street Theatre, London – until 7 March 2020
Ever since Neil Simon’s The Odd Couple in 1965, variations of this theme have been in vogue in popular culture. In Paul Minx’s play The Dog Walker (which is directed by Harry Burton) we meet two individuals who despite initial appearances, have deep-seated issues that manifest as ‘quirky’ behaviour.
Keri (Victoria Yeates) stays at home all the time, much of it spent drinking. When she does ‘work’ at all, she sits at her computer writing self-help e-books. But those periods of ‘activity’ are few and far between, as her depression keeps her bedbound. Keri, however, isn’t ‘allowed’ to indulge her solitude full-time. Firstly, her mother stands outside her apartment building everyday, shouting up to get her attention. The other impediment to Keri’s solitude is her pet dog, which leads us to the eponymous ‘dog walker’.
Enter Herbert Winston Doakes (Andrew Dennis). A stickler for rules and ‘standards’, Doakes is dismayed by Keri’s untidy apartment and the physical state that her small dog is in. From the off, Keri picks up on Doakes’ ‘rigid’ sensibility and ‘pushes his buttons’. But unbeknownst to Keri, her ‘unorthodox’ way of looking at things triggers an unravelling of Doakes’ inhibitions, which in his case is a double-edged sword.
Tonally, the play emphasises the humour from the couple’s awkward interactions, but as the backstory of the respective characters unfolds, our understanding of their circumstances alters our perception of their behaviour – seeing their traits for what they truly are.
In the case of Doakes, his homelife and domestic arrangements play a large part in his relationship with women and his emotional ‘arrested development’. As for Keri, cynical and wordly-wise in so many ways, she believes the ghosts of the past aren’t done with her…
Performance-wise, Yeates and Dennis embrace their respective character’s idiosyncrasies and regardless of how surreal events progress, we at least believe that they believe in the emotional truth of the situation.