Dog Show review at New Diorama, London – ‘poignant piece on the bond between man and dog’
Kandinsky’s amusing, original and often unexpectedly poignant devised piece explores the complex bond, and mutual dependency, that often forms between dogs and their owners. The cast plays a quartet of canines along with their respective humans: a Hampstead dog trainer and her King Charles spaniel, a nervy young woman and her pampered, bootie-wearing pup, a proud young man and his mastiff, and a tetchy blind man and his guide dog.
While there’s some top-quality dog acting going on here – Ntonga Mwanza is an utter delight as an easily distracted pug – this is a richer, more sensitive confection than the premise might suggest. Slowly it unpicks the nature of each character’s relationship, not just with their dogs, but also with the other people in their lives; we come to appreciate all the absences and lacks, the gaps that dogs can fill.
Though the devised nature of the piece means it can feel a little scattered at times, James Yeatman’s production – with its flickering strip lights and ominous plinky music, performed live by Zac Gvirtzman – for the most part is confident and considered.
A subplot about a mysterious dog killer – based on true events in Hong Kong, but here transplanted to Hampstead Heath – serves as a linking device and adds to the piece’s distinctive, noirish atmosphere, but in many ways it feels superfluous. The real heart of the production sits in its well-observed details, of doggy and human behaviour both, its excellent ensemble playing, and its compassion.