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The Dog/The Cat review at Hope Theatre, London – ‘charming performances, flimsy material’

Scene from The Dog/The Cat at Hope Theatre, London. Photo: Joe Twigg
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Brendan Cowell and Lally Katz’s romcom double-bill sold out its Australian run twice over in 2015. Despite the best efforts of the production it’s hard to see the appeal.

Exploring the absurdities of modern relationships through household pets is a cutesy prospect, but both plays suffer from weak writing, despite dedicated performances and Sharon Burrell’s playful direction.

Cowell’s play, The Dog, is the weaker of the two: a potentially interesting and subversive exploration of male friendship masquerading as a romantic comedy, it lacks the depth necessary to make its mark and instead relies on oddly dated references to Tinder and CrossFit to raise cheap laughs. It’s a technique that quickly begins to grate and feels irritatingly shallow. Frederick Di Rosa, Gemma Harvey and Thomas Blackburne give committed and amiable performances, but there’s only so much they can do with such insubstantial material.

Katz’s The Cat, by contrast, is a self-aware, surreal satire of modern love that tips into a knowingly silly farce. Blackburne, as the titular pet caught between his divorcing owners, brings a knowingness to his role and easily steals the show.

Laura Weston’s movement direction is enjoyably slapstick, but the play suffers when it lapses into ill-advised musical numbers that detract and undermine the slick comedy that preceded them. The hard-working cast and director try their hardest, but it’s not enough to compensate for a thin text.

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Charming performances go some way to enlivening a flimsy double-bill