The Dog Walker
By Paul Minx
Jermyn Street Theatre, 16B Jermyn Street, London SW1Y 6SJ to 7 March 2020.
Mon-Sat 7.30pm. MatTues & Sat 3.30pm.
Runs 1hr 40mins No interval.
TIUCKETS: 020 7287 2835.
Review: William Russell 14 February
Terrific performances by Victoria Yeates and Andrew Dennis as two damaged New Yorkers who find some kind of salvation when they meet – she is a drunk and a recluse living in a squalid little flat with allegedly a dog, he is the dog walker abandoned by his wife with a horror of intimacy she has employed – make this oddball comedy by Paul Minx well worth catching. It is the sort of play that one either finds quirky, charming and heart warming or just downright annoying and at times for me it got very near the latter. But Yeates and Dennis are so good one stays with it and to be fair to Minx he has come up with some funny and insightful dialogue. There is also, as often at Jermyn Street where the space challenges designers, an extremely effective set by Isabella Van Brraeckel – one can be dazzled by what is done in money no object theatres but very often it is in the smaller houses like this that something really special happens – and director Harry Burton has kept it all moving briskly towards its conclusion.
Keri (Victoria Yeates) is not quite down and out, but seems to be on the verge although she obviously has enough money to employ someone to walk her dog, which seems to have died, as she claims to write on line books and does retreat to her lap top from time to time. She lives in an apartment in New York’s Hell’s Kitchen and has done for years, conducting screaming matches from her window with the neighbours, conversing with what seems to be a ghost of a young woman down in the street and knocking back slugs of vodka and gin from the bottles which litter the place. The flat is a tip. Enter Herbert Doakes (Andrew Dennis) the dog walker who comes in uninvited to take her dog out, only to find that the yapping is actually Keri in the next room and the dog appears to have died – if there ever was one. It could be the rolled up blanket she produces is actually the corpse – the real thing would have been too over the top.
A lugubrious figure he quotes the rules of the job at her and somehow or other the relationship develops, he returns with the beast’s ashes in an urn, which she tosses into the street, and after he loses his job he comes back again and we find more about his existence, the missing wife, his horror of human contact, and realise that he is just as isolated from the real world as Keri. Meanwhile she is getting ever more desperate, the ghost in the street appears to be a long dead daughter, and throwing herself from the fire escape outside is a possibility. It is an intriguing enough brew, but it does need performances of the quality provided by Yeates and Dennis for it to work. There is also an offstage voice provided, one assumes it is a recording, by Debora Weston as Keri’s Mum who keeps threatening to visit and irate neighbours fed up with her endless bawling.
The piece is being given its world premiere here – perhaps exposure to a New York audience first would have been a happier way of launching it on the world.
Keri Leven: Victoria Yeates
Herbert Doakes: Andrew Dennis.
Neighbour/Keri’s Mum: Debora Weston.
Director: Harry Burton.
Designer: Isabella Van Braeckel.
Lighting Designer: Tom Turner.
Sound Designer: Fergus O’Hare.
Fight Director: Hadley Smith.
Production Photographs: Robert Workman.