BWW Review: THE DOG BENEATH THE SKIN, Jermyn Street Theatre

BWW Review: THE DOG BENEATH THE SKIN, Jermyn Street Theatre

BWW Review: THE DOG BENEATH THE SKIN, Jermyn Street TheatreProud Haddock presents The Dog Beneath the Skin, which concludes Jermyn Street Theatre's Scandal season. Every year, in the village of Pressan Ambo a young man is chosen to go on the unfortunate quest to try to find Francis, the heir of a large estate who went missing as a child. When the burden is thrust upon Alan Norman (Pete Ashmore), he decides to take a dog (Cressida Bonas) as his companion for the adventure.

Directed by Jimmy Walters, the show feels overproduced in such a small space and even though it's sprinkled with compelling directorial choices, these don't reach their full potential or result in clash with this type of play. The oneiric nature of it is lost on the over-crowded stage, and the actors lack a certain subtlety and refinement that would have avoided its turning it into slapstick.

The presence of physical comedy is a magnet for cheap laughs but the redundancy played out by the cast obfuscates the meaning and satire that are at the foundation of the script. Norman's journey around Europe is a succession of small sketches set in bars that too frequently seem to exist apart from each other. The elements of meta-theatre in the set-up mould into his expedition and create, maybe on purpose, an unclear narrative.

However, Walter's collaboration with movement director Ste Clough gives life to delightful scene changes. The company dances and swirls around props and pieces of the set to put them in place, building a world with its own rules. Paired with Auden and Isherwood's poetic and rhyming script, these instances give an almost fairy-tale-like ambience to the production, too bad it doesn't last longer.

Ashmore is a generally cool and collected Norman. He accepts his fate and sets off with a Cressida Bonas who hides behind a gas mask with ears. He is a muted and linear actor in a rowdy crowd. Edmund Digby Jones, like the rest of the cast, plays an array of characters (his go from the vicar to the king, passing by the financier and the poet). His comedy is direct and brazen, but his grasp on the satirical essence of his roles is too light.

Although the nature of the dog is quite tricky, Bonas is unconvincing in the part. She falls short on physicality and her displays of emotions are limited to awkwardly shake her behind as to wag her tail. Large painted backdrops are the main feature of Rebecca Brower's set, which also features a corner stage and a piano to accompany the songs in the play. Even though her work is worthy of praise, it only adds to the already congested space.

Unfortunately it's another unlucky bet for artistic director Tom Littler, who ends what started as a very promising season on a dreary note. This said, the future is bright for Jermyn street with their new, very promising Reaction season at their doors.

The Dog Beneath the Skin runs at Jermyn Street Theatre until 31 March.

Photo credit: S R Taylor Photography

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