Summerhall, Edinburgh (Venue 26) – until 27 August 2017
Guest reviewer: Hugh Simpson
Stark truths not often portrayed on stage give Doglife at Summerhall a compelling quality, even if the result could never be called attractive.
Former gangland enforcer Thomas McCrudden and a cast of untrained actors have, along with Grassmarket Projects’ Jeremy Weller and Mark Traynor, devised a sequel to last year’s Doubting Thomas. McCrudden and the rest of the cast – Lynne Killin, John Riley, Gillian Gibson, Shona Darroch, Rosie McKay, Chris Hunter, Katherine Brown and Jo-Jo – play out scenes based on McCrudden’s life and writings and on their own experiences.
The focus this time is on McCrudden’s relationships with the women in his life and his inability to express love. There is no doubt this is a difficult experience and may be too much for some. While there is little explicit physical violence on stage, it is always implicit, and occasionally described with some ferocity. Furthermore, there are scenes of emotional and psychological abuse that verge on the unbearable.
Raw and harrowing, this raises many questions about why people are attracted to violence and power, both in themselves and those they are close to.
Focusing on McCrudden’s personal relationships means that his criminal activities are in the background. But he is not left off the hook in this regard, with its effects on the victims and those around him clearly present. There is one moment when Killin, as McCrudden’s wife, has a vision of his violence that is shattering in its bluntness.
The audience don’t escape either, with the comfortable assumptions of the average theatre-going audience contrasted with the forces that shaped McCrudden, and the circular pattern of deprivation that sustains these forces.
A million miles away from the exploitative glamour of ‘true crime’, there is no romanticism here – and no true romance either – but there is a compelling reflection on very dark human impulses.
Running time 1 hour 15 minutes (no interval)
Summerhall, 1 Summerhall, EH9 1PL (Venue 26)
Friday 4 – Sunday 27 August 2017
Daily (not Mon 14 or Mon 21) at 7.25 pm
Book tickets on the Fringe website: https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/doglife
Company website: https://www.grassmarketprojects.com/