REVIEW: Dog/Actor ★★★★
Updated: Jun 27
Stephen Smith delivers a mesmerizing and highly physical performance in this double-bill of plays by Stephen Berkoff.
I don’t know if it’s deliberate but I really had to rummage about on Threedumb Theatre’s website to find the name of the actor playing the two intensive roles in the double bill of Dog/Actor. Maybe it’s because he’s also Artistic Director of this small upcoming company, but I’d love to see his name on the flyer and nifty QR code card-programme. He deserves it.
Stephen Smith delivers a mesmerizing and highly physical performance in both of these two short plays, delivered back-to-back without even time for an interval between – indeed his costume change from one character to the next, on the semi-lit stage, was just as watchable.
Not a likeable character, but a very likeable performance.
There’s no set and no other characters. At the start of Dog, there’s just Smith in a pool of light, lacing up his Doc Martin’s. For most of this first piece there’s hardly any speech either. Some great physical theatre as we watch this red-braces skinhead take his vicious pitbull through a day of racist vandalism and antics down the pub. The moments when Smith jumps into role as the red-lit rabid, raging dog were great, and I was fascinated by the accuracy of his lean against an invisible bar. We get an unpleasant story about a transit van, and a whole load of puking. Not a likeable character but a very likeable performance.
Smith creates his own soundtrack, with a live-looped clicking, ticking, time-passing beat.
Actor is a clever contrast in atmosphere, accent and physicality. This time Smith’s all in black, with white face paint and black-rimmed eyes and mouth – which slides and smears as we follow the sweaty descent of the out-of-work Actor through failed auditions and failed marriages.
Smith creates his own soundtrack, with a live-looped clicking, ticking, time-passing beat. And then walks, talks and runs to the rhythm and rhyme – the world is passing him by as he is stuck to the spot. His handshakes and jaunty “Are you working?” greetings get more and more bitchy as his peers succeed and he doesn’t, and his relationship with his parents gets rocky. It all gets increasingly more desperate, the tension relieved by the comedy of the frustrations and shared human experience played out so frankly. There’s poetry in here - in the text, in the motion, and in the story as it rises and falls.
Combined, these two pieces balance and complement each other and leave us with respect for the actor who plays them with such conviction.
Beccy Golding is a Bristol-based poet, fool, writer and arts administrator. She has recently created a brand new spoken word night for older / aging / elder women, called Stone the Crones.
Daily poetry at @FridayIsPoetsDay
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