A review by Richard J Thornton for EXTRA! EXTRA!

 

Rock ‘n’ Roll Theatre Presents

 

 

Four Dogs and a Bone

 

Written by John Patrick Shanley

 

Directed by Josh Seymour

 

Phoenix Artists Club

 

26 July – 20 August 2011

 

 

 

Under the Phoenix Theatre, in the backroom of a memorabilia-laden watering hole of thespians, the young Rock ‘n’ Roll Theatre group are grappling with a difficult script.
The small cast are individually powerful and deliver their lines with the all-American gusto you would expect from a play about the desperate, dark side of Hollywood showbiz. But the four dogs don’t quite gel and Shanley’s fast-talking, verbose, and at times poetic, script tumbles from their lips in an unfortunate tirade of swearing and literary reference, incongruous with the characters themselves. The stilted dialogue does not allow the story’s fickle allegiances to form or shatter convincingly and  otherwise intriguing personalities are left unexamined as time is spent unravelling these confusing conversations.

The setting is apt enough and director Josh Seymour uses the intimate space to his advantage. Together with set designer George Moustakas, he creates three discrete, well-formed scenes to put at the budding cast’s disposal.  The set, sound and lighting are seamless but uninventive and the background noise of the Phoenix bar charmingly helps to give the stage a little rough-edged ambiance.

There are delights to be found among the melee too, with each of the actors bringing something of their own. Amy Tez, who set up Rock ‘n’ Roll Theatre in 2009 and produced the show, plays Brenda whose impeccable comic timing brings energy to the stage. The seedy underbelly of the money-grabbing movie-world is embodied in Bradley, and Daniel O’Meara is convincing as this ageing, short-fused film producer with a dirty mouth and twisted mind. The award-winning Laura Pradelska adds a touch of class to the affair with her beautiful, husky American accent, giving Collette an added depth and it isn’t hard to believe she has also worked as a voiceover artist.
However, it is Joe Jameson’s portrayal of Victor, the naïve, exploited, alcoholic writer which hints at the play’s potential. Only in Victor do we briefly see the marriage of absurd humour and utter tragedy that is needed to create a powerful, cohesive and meaningful experience.

Four Dogs and a Bone is in turns both amusing and touching, but these two qualities are rarely served as a pair. The performance succeeds in teasing out some laughs and the odd one-liner keeps the audience entertained. At intervals an emotional dimension is also revealed as the characters’ back-stories come to light and give us a grim insight into the tortured minds of average would-be stars. Unfortunately, these two extremes are too often offered as the exception and not the norm. Perhaps the lofty aim of creating “very real, highly imaginative and edge of your seat theatre that not only engages its audience but also resonates on an emotional level” is just too tall an order to sustain for the full hour and the audience must make-do with an energetic effort that just falls short.

 

 

Phoenix Artists Club

1 Phoenix Street, London, WC2H 8BU.

Running time: 1 hour

Performance times 7.30pm or 8pm depending on the day –

see http://fourdogs.moonfruit.com for more details.

£10 / £8 (concessions)

Book Online: www.wegottickets.com

 

 
 


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