Sherman Theatre’s artist development programme bears fruit in this gripping new play by its most recent graduates, writer Elgan Rhys and director Gethin Evans. Woof is a Welsh-language drama (with English surtitles at all performances) about relationships – and the schisms that can form within them – that is as uncompromising as it is well crafted.
In contemporary theatre, it’s a well-trodden path: a two-hander exploring the highs and lows of a burgeoning romance, from lustful beginnings to the reality of sustaining commitment. First weekend away, meeting the parents, meeting the other’s friends – they’re all here. But Woof eschews cliché when Jesse (Aled Pedrick) suggests to Daf (Berwyn Pearce) that theirs should be an open relationship. “We’re more dogs than swans,” he asserts, programmed to want more than one sexual partner. He persuades Daf this will make them even closer, their partnership more honest.
Pedrick and Pearce are excellent. Despite the unconventional agreement, there’s real tenderness in their relationship (a scene when they first swap numbers is especially well played). Of course, they soon encounter difficulties, especially Daf who wants all the things his female friend is enjoying (marriage, children), and slowly crumbles under the new arrangement.
The design – by the team of Elin Steele, Katy Morison and Sam Jones – is exceptional, the space transformed beyond recognition. And the action is often raw and visceral. But it’s the gentle moments that resonate most, when the vulnerability of both characters comes to the surface, each partner’s happiness in the hands of the other.