‘Cold, comfortless farm’: GUNDOG – Royal Court Theatre ★★

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Royal Court Theatre, London – until 10 March 2018

We’re visibly, audibly on a windswept moorland in Chloe Lamford’s dirt-shovelled set for Gundog and start well with two excellent actors – Ria Zmitrowicz who was movingly one of the Rochdale grooming victims in the BBC drama starring Maxine Peake, and Alec Secareanu, the Romanian itinerant worker in the terrific Brit movie God’s Own Country. He’s cowering from her shotgun, she’s bantering like Lauren from a Catherine Tate sketch but there’s real dramatic tension.

Then author Simon Longman loses his way: trying to portray the isolation and desperation of a bereaved family scraping a living from a small herd of sickly sheep, detached from the world – although a moody brother appears to have a constant phone signal – he seems trying to touch the seam of magical realism as though this were an Irish drama but it’s way out of his grasp.

It’s conspicuously worthy to try to combine elements of poverty, migration, feminism, dysfunction and dementia but neither Longman’s tedious time-skipping script nor Vicky Featherstone’s static direction can relieve the infectious boredom.

As the rambling grandfather, Alan Williams has a good speech about recognising he’s losing his mind and delivers it well, but by that time you’ve one eye on the stage and the other on the door.

Cold, comfortless farm.

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Johnny Fox
‘Johnny Fox’ studied Theatre at Lancaster University and Journalism at City before realising there was no money in either profession and concentrating instead on interior design for investment banks in Singapore, New York and Moscow. Back home, he wrote mostly about theatre, mostly in London, for arts and events websites including Londonist and The Pink Paper. He blogged independently at www.johnnyfox.london. He passed away, after a long battle with cancer, in May 2020.

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Johnny Fox on FacebookJohnny Fox on RssJohnny Fox on Twitter
Johnny Fox
‘Johnny Fox’ studied Theatre at Lancaster University and Journalism at City before realising there was no money in either profession and concentrating instead on interior design for investment banks in Singapore, New York and Moscow. Back home, he wrote mostly about theatre, mostly in London, for arts and events websites including Londonist and The Pink Paper. He blogged independently at www.johnnyfox.london. He passed away, after a long battle with cancer, in May 2020.

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