Tag Archives: John Patrick Shanley

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



The Dreamer Examines His Pillow

15 Dec

‘What is sex for?’ adult Donna asks her father.

‘For making babies!’ he replies; an answer so shockingly and refreshingly obvious that it hides the very strangeness of the question.

‘What is sex for?’

What is it for?

What’s being expressed here is a powerful desire for structure, an overwhelming need for certainty. Donna is asking someone with supposed authority to tell her how the world is organized. She wants her father to say that things are this way, and not that way, or that way, or that….

John Patrick Shanley’s play is rich and thought provoking. His characters speak with a street poetry that overflows with gloriously fresh imagery. The play bristles and sparkles with the contrast between plain speaking and magical attempts to capture the unknowable.

Donna and Tommy are trying to work it out.  Should they be together or not? It would probably be easier if Tommy knew who he was and what he was responsible for. (Another strand of Shanley’s intriguing exploration of certainty.) It would also be easier if Tommy wasn’t sleeping with Donna’s younger sister.

Photo by Tom Bannerman

Photo by Tom Bannerman

Ainslie Clouston and Scott Lee give brilliant performances as the lovers, and Peter McAllum is wonderful as Donna’s father.

Tom Bannerman’s clever set brings the TAP alive.

Director Vashti Pontaks’ production is funny and deeply stimulating. (And not just because of the discussions of sex, though they’re interesting. Shanley’s vision of sex and romantic love is a controversial one. Of course, the play doesn’t really reduce desire to a mere component in biological reproduction. Indeed, to my taste, Shanley actually overstates the power and importance of sex in our lives. And yes, I know, that’s a bold claim to hide away in a set of parentheses.)

But the play is an exhilarating reminder of the danger of reducing anything to something else.

For when we rob Life of its richness, it is we who are poorer.

Veronica Kaye


The Dreamer Examines His Pillow by John Patrick Shanley

at TAP Gallery til 21st Dec