Dog Ends review at Tabard Theatre, London – ‘misanthropic and mischievous’
Equal parts misanthropic and mischievous, Dog Ends is an awkward mismatch of knockabout comedy and bitter rumination on the burdens of old age. The script, from writer Richard Harris, began life as an episode of the BBC’s Play For Today programme, but has been significantly extended for its run at the recently reopened Tabard Theatre.
Bryan Hands makes the most of his role as a miserable, fast-degrading Grandad, raising a few laughs with some blunt asides between stints of silent weeping. His utterly unlikeable relatives, meanwhile, continually confuse his situation with the protracted demise of the family dog. Events take a turn for the macabre when his son – played by a grumbling, guilt-ridden Nick Wilton – unwittingly contacts a vet who offers a discreet sideline in human euthanasia.
Despite a promising premise, the production feels dated, right down to the admittedly impressive set from Michael Leopold, which depicts an unremarkable living room in unstinting detail, beige carpets and all. he pace picks up somewhat in the second half, as director Keith Strachan infuses the gradually escalating farce with just enough urgency to offset some forced deliveries and occasionally ill-judged humour.
As each passing scene fades to black, Adam King’s understated lighting design leaves a lingering spotlight on the grandfather’s chair, emphasising the lasting implications of his continued life. Though flawed, the show attempts to articulate some uncomfortable questions about the value of dignity, and the impact of a greying population on those who have to care for them.
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