BWW REVIEW: Arinzé Kene's GOOD DOG Challenges The Idea That Being Good Will Bring Good Things With A Captivating Look Into The World Society Tries To Forget
Wednesday 6th November 2019, 7:30pm, KXT Kings Cross Theatre
The promise of good things in return for good behavior is considered in Arinzé Kene's one man play GOOD DOG. DIRECTED BY Rachel Chant with solo performer Justin Amankwah, the coping mechanisms when a father's advice don't really go as planned play out with at times devastating effect.
Set on a multi-level concrete set designed by Maya Keys, Justin Amankwah shares the unnamed boy's story of growing up in what is most likely to be a government housing in a lower socioeconomic suburb of London but his story could just as easily be an equally poor neighborhood of housing commission flats in Australia. We meet the 13-year-old from African ancestry as he shares his view of the world from the balcony of the apartment he shares with his mother while his father seems to still be overseas. While he tries to be good, taught by his father to be a "bigger man" and if he is good, "good gonna come for you", he sees that being good doesn't seem to be doing much for him or his neighbors. Woven into his observations are links to the boy's heritage as a malevolent spirit or 'Duppy' appears to him each time he diverts from his father's wisdom and tries his new strategy of "passing on the hate".
While it can take a while to adjust to the strong accent Amankwah adopts for the African English teen, GOOD DOG is a captivating 120 minutes of monologue as he shares the two part story of the 13 year old and his view of his world 5 years later. He ensures that the characters that the boy talks about feel plausible and real as he highlights the problems with a society that the police have chosen to ignore until it is too late. There is an honesty in his voice that garners the support of the audience so they feel sympathy for the boy that was trying so hard to be good in the face of a harsh world of bullies, liars and thieves. With Melanie Herbert's sound design to heighten the tension and Kelsey Lee's lighting design of red glows of danger and shifting through the times of day, the work is given surprising visual interest when paired with Amankwah's use of the full space.
If you've every considered what can push a good person to go rogue, GOOD DOG is worth seeing. This is a reminder to reward the good and encourage society as a whole to protect the innocent as a preventative measure rather than just being reactionary.