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Good Dog review at Watford Palace Theatre – ‘compellingly vital’

Anton Cross in Good Dog at Watford Palace Theatre. Photo: Wasi Daniju
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Inspired by a desire to understand the rage that fuelled riots across England in 2011, Arinze Kene’s Good Dog is an ambitious, sprawling monologue chronicling the decay of a multicultural North London community through the eyes of one rapidly maturing teenager. At two and a half hours long, Natalie Ibu’s production stretches the form’s boundaries to the absolute limit, but it’s also infused with an exhilarating urgency, with sparks of gentle humour, and with a fierce, deep-seated anger born of relentless injustice.

Anton Cross supplies a magnificent performance, plotting an endearingly good-natured adolescent’s journey from innocent, uncomprehending child to disenchanted, perennially frustrated adult with exuberance and adeptness.

Skipping and clambering around Amelia Jane Hankin’s set – an ominous, steaming, 10-foot tall cube – and enthusing Kene’s authentically colloquial writing with conviction and wit, Cross charts an everyman tale of fading dreams, crumbling faith and straining patience, against the backdrop of a community struggling with infidelity, drugs and crime.

At times, good dog’s rife symbolism is thumpingly heavy-handed and, at 150 minutes long, it can feel self-indulgent, but Kene’s triumph is not one of elegance or economy; it is to contextualise the 2011 riots in a wider story of administrative negligence, vanishing life opportunities, and grinding systemic unfairness. And to do so with tear-jerking clarity. This is, in both senses of the word, compellingly vital theatre.

 

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Verdict
An ambitious, affecting monologue about a decaying multicultural community
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