19/08/2014 - 30/08/2014
A dog-gone comedy. Literally.
Starring Shavaughn Ruakere, Gareth Williams, Mick Innes
TV star Shavaughn Ruakere makes her theatrical debut in a touching comedic tale about an old man’s love for his best friend – DOG. Written by founding member of The Lonesome Buckwhips, Ben Hutchison, DOG, plays at The Basement Theatre from August 19th 2014.
War veteran Neville is intent on paying a tribute to his dog that would be befitting of any of his good mates. Unfortunately, he can’t get his hands on a cannon to initiate a 21-gun salute. So instead, he is doing the next best thing, by playing the decaying corpse its favourite song 21 times before he puts him in the ground. But it’s taking ages, and Nev’s boarder Olivia and her rejected admirer Warwick find themselves walking an emotional tightrope to sensitively fast-track getting the dog buried.
Touching upon themes of death, aging and loneliness, this bittersweet and endearing account of one man’s love for his best friend tackles its material in an original and charmingly comic way.
This production also reunites Hutchison with fellow Buckwhip Gareth Williams, known to many for his performances in the multi-award-winning Apollo 13: Mission Control and his Chapman Tripp Award winning role in Indian Ink’s The Dentist Chair, which also garnered him a Metro Magazine “Newcomer of the Year” award. Rounding off this three-hander, Ruakere and Williams will be joined on stage by veteran actor Mick Innes (Echo Point, Super City, Zen Dog, Hounds).
Ben Hutchison will be most remembered for his work with popular music-comedy quartet The Lonesome Buckwhips. The group became perennial fringe festival favourites throughout New Zealand and Australia (including a NZ Fringe Festival Award for “Best Comedy”) – even receiving a nomination for the illustrious Billy T Award in 2008. Hutchison was also responsible for writing and starring in a four-part mockumentary on the quartet which aired on Radio New Zealand in 2009.
The buzz surrounding Dog’s premiere season at The Basement Theatre makes it one of the “must-see” new works in 2014.
It would be a dog-gone shame to miss this.
DOG is a Creative New Zealand and Auckland Council supported production.
19th – 30th August 2014, 8pm.
The Basement Theatre, Lower Greys Avenue, Auckland CBD
Tickets: $23 – $25 (booking fees may apply)
Bookings through iTicket – www.iticket.co.nz or 0800 iTicket
A bit barking … but with real bite
Review by Paul Simei-Barton 21st Aug 2014
Playwright Ben Hutchison establishes himself as an original and very distinctive voice with a play that has the gritty realism of a kitchen sink drama merging seamlessly into the weirdness of dream.
The verisimilitude of Kenah Trusewich’s set design, with its sharp delineation of interior and exterior space, convincingly introduces the self-contained world of a lonely pensioner and his young flat mate.
But nothing seems to be quite right and the ordinary takes on a hallucinatory quality as the burial of a beloved dog is endlessly deferred and romance between a pair of deeply antagonistic lovers blossoms in a shadow cast by a slowly decomposing corpse. [More]
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Review by Matt Baker 20th Aug 2014
Dog “has been through a number of development phases”, however, while playwright Ben Hutchison states that this production understood what he “was aiming to achieve”, the result seems ironically underdeveloped. The play starts off promisingly, with a strong balance of both verbal and physical humour, setting a well-pitched comedic tone in regards to the context, however, under the direction of Jeff Szusterman, this tone and pace never changes. The result is that the play becomes very drawn out, with the second “act” playing out uncomfortably longer than the first. While some elements of the script planted in the first half complete themselves in the second, there is a sense of sudden, unnecessary dramatic drive in the latter, turning the play into two separate stories, instead of a sub-plot emerging from an initial premise.
I can’t help but be aware of the dramatic irony of Gareth Williams’ mentioning of a stroke when considering actor Mick Innes. While the effects are evident, albeit to a very minor degree, his ability to drive the first half of the play and make an underwritten emotional journey and psychological shift are made with great clarity. His thespian drive parallels his on-stage objectives, and even the glimmer in his eye when engaging with Ruakere somehow seems to disappear when reaching the apotheosis. [More]
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Heart-breaking and sobering situational comedy
Review by Stephen Austin 20th Aug 2014
Neville has recently lost his best of mates: his dog.
In fact, it’s so fresh an event, he’s still clutching onto his faithful companion in the days following and, being a war veteran, it’s a long formalised process which should involve a 21-gun salute. Only he doesn’t have a canon for the proper send off. So he intends to sit listening to his buddy’s favourite song on the record player twenty-one times as a tribute before burying him, much to the consternation of his boarder Olivia and her sometime stalker, the bloody next door neighbour, Warwick.
The two are doing their best to speed along Neville’s grieving and get the body – which is beginning to smell – buried, but their own lives intersect causing them to take stock of where they’re at and find a way forward for themselves.
As depressing as this possibly sounds, writer Ben Hutchison has meticulously created a socially conscious realist comedy that’s as concerned with its wider themes as it is with the welfare of the day-to-day workings of the inner lives of its three characters. Out of disparate, oddly paired people, he crafts a story that packs plenty of emotional wallop in its tail, while never going overboard on the sentimental. In fact it’s just the right balance of well-observed Kiwi naturalism, packed full of sub-text that director Jeff Szusterman taps into to pull it all together with excellent purpose and detail, making this emotionally engrossing work sing so well.
Mick Innes finds the quiet determination of a hard-working man near the end of his life and brings a wealth of experience, from both on and off stage, to the character of Neville. He mines some pretty deep reservoirs of emotional turmoil to fuel the journey here and injects it with an abrasive edge of abruptness that feels deeply raw from the events required of the script. He’s on stage the majority of the play and never falters in his delivery of the grief, balancing it neatly with an exterior of a gruff old stick-in-the-mud.
As Warrick, Gareth Williams has the trickier task of delivering most of the higher comedy of the piece, forced into an antagonistic position by the other two characters. Williams’ presence of self and pure playing of truth at the heart of this character saves it from archetype and he builds towards a surprisingly complex payoff for what could easily have been played up for laughs.
With considerable TV and film to her credit, Shavaughn Ruakere impresses and utilises those past experiences in her first theatre role to bring Olivia off the page as a gutsy, yet complicated woman who has known loneliness and a fair few uncomfortable incidents in her fairly brief life. There’s plenty in her timing that makes the interactions zip, especially when she pulls it right back to a simple approach to the truthful intent of the dialogue.
The setting asks for something of a traditional lounge-to-outdoor box-set style which designer Kenah Trusewich overcomes when faced with the non-traditional Basement space: simply playing at a completely different end of the space to most and dividing the playing space off cleanly with a ranch-slider, rostra used to represent and amplify the outdoor section and a cleanly wallpapered back wall flat. It’s dressed with lots of detail, but not over-stuffed: audience is dignified some room for imagination around the fringes, instead of absolutely finishing off every nook and cranny.
Props Master Rick Cave certainly pulls out all the stops to furnish the world of the play further. His dead dog body is so convincing as to give an uneasy feeling of death in the room, you can almost smell the rot setting in. And it’s the attention to so many other items of minutiae in this area that really lifts the production further into such a convincing realm.
Charming, unaffected characters, in an ultimately heart-breaking, sobering situational comedy, played with excellent timing, effective clarity and topped off with considerable emotional kick. Bloody great.
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