Anvil House, Level 2, 138-140 Wakefield Street, Wellington

09/12/2014 - 13/12/2014

Production Details

play with your food 

In this world the culinary arts are off limits. To be a connoisseur, a chef, or even a simple foodie, is to harbour a sick fascination with desire and appetite. Food is taboo.

The DOGS gather in secret, hiding their dark deeds under silver domes, searching for ways to make the rest of their lives as delicious as the time they spend together. How do they find expression for the ecstasies they are forced to keep private?

DOGS is a show about the conversation we’re not keen on having; a playfully surreal performance exploring the difficulty around talking about sex. Devised by a team of young practitioners, including current students and recent graduates of both Toi Whakaari and Victoria University, it is an experiment in contemporary clowning, seeking to open up this conversation through play, laughter, and food.

DOGS is directed by Calvin Petersen and features Angela Fouhy, Drew Brown, Frankie Berge, Merlin Nawalowalo, and Samuel Austin.

Tuesday 9th – Saturday 13th December
Level 2 Anvil House, Corner of Cuba and Wakefield streets.
SHOW: 6:30pm
Tickets: $18/$14
Run time: 60 minutes

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DOGS features Angela Fouhy, Drew Brown, Frankie Berge, Merlin Nawalowalo, and Samuel Austin.

Production Manager: Catherine Hart:
Lighting Design: Haami Hawkins 
Music composition and performance: Flinn Gendall

Not enough

Review by John Smythe 10th Dec 2014

When you settle your audience in a restaurant setting without a ‘stage’ as such, the expectations and anticipation that usually attend the preshow moments diminish. Because the game ‘restaurant’ is being played – complete with waiters who welcome us, ply us with water and will serve real food – anything that breaks the restaurant convention is automatically unsettling and potentially entertaining.  

A number of incidents-cum-interludes occur within the process of serving a simple but tasty three-course meal (the cooks take a bow but are not credited in publicity material and there is no printed programme).

Our German-accented Host (Samuel Austin) is delighted to see us and finds joy in paying compliments. A rather sporty Chap (Frankie Berge) pursues a long-frocked damsel (Austin again) and can hardly get a word out past the plum in his mouth – an exercise in Grammelot, presumably – but “Good game boy!” does emerge as a coherent phrase.

Another 1930s-esque woman, or drag queen, called Carmen (Drew Brown) plies us with antipasto nibbles, reveals she has come from Reefton via Spain and she gets her creative juices flowing with walnuts. In the corridor beyond the floor-to-ceiling window a young Man (Merlin Nawalowalo) enjoys showing us what he can do with a pudding plate in each hand.

The poker-faced Ranger-type person (Angela Fouhy), who brought us up in the lift and orientated us robotically from a clip-board, reappears to attempt supernatural feats, like elevating her plate of dinner and divining the food preferences of guests.  

There’s a moment where they all dance in a line (to relieve stress) in the corridor with some pretty fancy lighting. Then Fouhy returns as a white-clad nun to find orgasmic delight in a chocolate ‘amuse bouche’ sequence which I won’t detail further for fear of spoiling the only extended and reasonably structured episode of the evening (apart from the meal itself). Suffice to say it involves participation and is fun.

Dogs is a very odd title for this show and referring back to the publicity material doesn’t help. It seems the premise for what the happily engaging actors do involves “a sick fascination with desire and appetite” and aims to reveal and express “the ecstasies they are forced to keep private”. 

Had I not read this, or that it is “a playfully surreal performance exploring the difficulty around talking about sex” and “is an experiment in contemporary clowning, seeking to open up this conversation through play, laughter, and food,” I would never have seen it as more than a disconnected demonstration of random performance elements that adds up to less than the sum of its parts.

Pre-reading publicity material, especially when there is no programme on the night, should not be a prerequisite for getting the hang of a show. As a devised work, Dogs lacks any hint of the dramaturgical input that might have realised its intended purpose by conjuring the perfomative ingredients into a well-structured and satisfying repast in which everything complements everything else in some ingenious way.

Had Dogs cropped up in the Fringe I’d have said Fouhy is the only performer to fully exhibit clowning skills and left it at that. But this is a major production to cap Calvin Petersen’s two years of working towards his Master of Theatre Arts (Directing). I take it he’s not expert in clowning, nor a playwright, yet he has chosen – been encouraged? – to embark on a devising process that has not included people with those skills in the team, so the result falls way short of its own stated objectives and proves very little about his skills as a director.

It comes down to purpose; the purpose of theatre. And if the purpose here is simply to dream up what might make a disparate bunch of disconnected characters feel ecstatic then have them act it out, that’s not enough; not by a long shot.

(It may or may not be relevant to add that enrolments are now suspended for this course.)


Editor December 11th, 2014

The chefs are Tristan Oliver and Nikita Turton.

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