DREAM OF THE DOG
by Craig Higginson.
Finborough theatre above The Finborough Road Brasserie 118 Finborough Road SW10 9ED To 22 May 2010.
Tue-Sat 7.30pm Sun 3pm.
Runs 1hr 20min No interval.
Performances sold out. Check for possible returns.
TICKETS: 0844 847 1652 (24hr No booking fee).
www.finboroughtheatre.co.uk (reduced full-price tickets online).
Review: Timothy Ramsden 9 May.
Intense drama of personal loss and social change.
First seen in South Africa three years ago, Craig Higginson’s drama is a concentrated, super-adrenaline Cherry Orchard, set a century on “after the millennium”. The old order’s represented by mentally-decayed Richard and his wife Patricia, a Ranevskaya figure, gracious and loving towards the serfs but reduced to bewildered regret as she prepares to leave her home.
Higginson’s world is more embittered than Chekhov’s. “Look Smart”, known by the moralising English name his mother gave him to please her bosses, is no entrepreneur like Chekhov’s Lopakhin, but a smart-suited executive of the property company that’s bought the Wileys’ estate for new development.
And when he arrives with the new plans, he brings an anger in which Patricia’s kindness to him as a child has been obliterated by the scale of values which he believes cost his former love her life. Richard Wiley, whose roving mind is both more tactical and more violent than his Chekhovian counterpart’s, had a more callous role in the death, involving the family dog, forerunner of the one whose offstage barking periodically pierces the action.
The format could seem contrived, but Higginson handles the revelations carefully, as he does the reluctance of the servant Beauty, sister to the long-dead woman, to become involved with “Look Smart”’s search for truth. And Katie McAleese’s Finborough production includes telling moments – an offered hand that’s refused, or Richard stamping his foot a couple of seconds after his angry words, creating a sense of mental disjunction.
Then there’s Janet Suzman’s performance, conveying Patricia’s opening melancholy, sitting among the dilapidated decór, the walls showing where pictures long stood, the room’s contents in packing-cases, as she looks through old photographs. Suzman’s performance expresses anger and regret, its internal anguish conveyed with a surprising lightness of manner, achieving emotional intensity without strain.
Ariyon Bakare brings lightning switches of pent-up fury to “Look Smart”, a success of the new regime yet still having to assert his proper name while examining his past loss with moments of propulsive anger. Both performances, well-supported by Gracy Goldman and Bernard Kay, bring emotional truth and immediacy to Higginson’s well-structured script.
Patricia Wiley: Janet Suzman.
Richard Wiley: Bernard Kay.
Beauty: Gracy Goldman.
“Look Smart”: Ariyon Bakare.
Director: Katie McAleese.
Designer: Alex Marker.
Lighting: Michael Nabarro.
Sound: Andrew Pontzen.
Costume: Penn O’Gara.