BWW Review: THE DOG WALKER, Jermyn Street Theatre
A world premiere of a play is always an exciting thing; a potential opportunity to witness one of the very first performances of a future classic. Unfortunately, Paul Minx's new play The Dog Walker, at the diminutive Jermyn Street Theatre, is an odd and uneven experience.
The story follows Keri and Herbert; two lonely souls living in New York. Keri is a depressed drunk, living among empty Ouzo bottles and avoiding the need to go out of her apartment. Through this, she meets Herbert Doakes, a professional dog-walker who comes to walk her Pekingese after all other dog-walkers have blacklisted her due to bad behaviour. It quickly becomes clear that Herbert has many issues of his own and the pair form an unlikely connection that leads to potential hope for them both.
Two misfits finding solace in each other is not a new theme and Minx finds nothing new to say here. The play touches on addiction, loneliness, grief and mental illness, but misses the opportunity to explore them in any detail. There are a few touching moments towards the end, but overall it is hard to care about the characters and the glib ending sews up everything a little too neatly to be impactful.
In this two-hander, both actors work very hard with what they are given. Victoria Yeates, best known for her role in the BBC's Call The Midwife, is very convincing as the emotionally disturbed and spiky Keri. She is difficult to like, but it is clear that Yeates is very invested in the character.
Andrew Dennis is also convincing and, at times, funny as Herbert. His character is imbalanced; a sexually repressed alcoholic in denial, but Noakes manages to find both sensitivity and abject weakness in the character.
Isabella Van Braeckel's design is detailed and very realistic; the turmoil in Keri's mind is reflected in her apartment, littered with empty bottles, dirty plates and dead plants. Fergus O' Hare's sound design is also very clever, with Keri shouting down from her Open Window and people responding to her from the street level below.
Harry Burton's direction tries to be pacey, but at 90 minutes, the play feels far too long, with several scenes feeling like unnecessary padding. A scene where Herbert tries to perform CPR on an obviously deceased dog is neither funny nor dramatic and his drunken antics are overly drawn out.
Overall, despite strong performances and great design, this play feels like a missed opportunity to say anything new.
Photo Credit: Bob Workman