Four Dogs and a Bone

19 Sep

Brenda: I want to be famous!

Bradley: Why?

Brenda: I don’t know! *

First and third lines said with equal force.

This encapsulates John Patrick Shanley’s satire on the film industry.

This play is very funny. It’s jam-packed with tremendous one-liners.

Amanda Collins, photo Katy Green-Loughrey

Amanda Collins, photo Katy Green-Loughrey

It’s probably one of Shanley’s less substantial plays. The assertion that the film industry is laughable is hardly ground-breaking stuff. However, an enormous amount of money is invested in the triviality that is film while children starve (in the South Sudan as I write). So that means satires like Four Dogs and a Bone don’t lose their bite.

Shanley has created big characters and director Kate Gaul allows her cast to fill them. Design and blocking is kept appropriately simple, creating the space for linguistic brilliance and joyous hyperbole. There were a few opening night problems with pacing, but these will mend, and the cast will provide a terrific night’s entertainment.

Theatre’s revenge on film. Stage’s little brother is big on budget, but small on substance. And Shanley has fun with this. Victor, played by Paul Gerrard, is a stage writer hungry for money and therefore ripe for seduction by celluloid. Collette, played with glorious energy by Amanda Collins, is the star of the movie, but Collette is hampered by that most disgraceful of descents: she’s a theatre actor. Brenda is Collette’s support in the film and hence her rival in life. (Melinda Dransfield gives a delightful portrait of the nightmare performer: a façade of sweetness masking utter self obsession.) Belinda gleefully tells Colette that she looks grotesque in the daily rushes. As a stage actor, she is too big. A delicious irony – after all, regardless of performance style, big budget film rarely does subtlety.

Veronica Kaye

* Possibly a paraphrasing; my hunger for accuracy unequal to Brenda’s desire for fame.


Four Dogs and a Bone by John Patrick Shanley

Old Fitz til 27 Sept


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