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Dogstar, Tabard Theatre – Review

Greg Freeman

Directed by Ken McClymont
★★★
Pros: The philosophical arguments dressed in dark comedy surrounding ownership, friendship and the value we place upon a person.
Cons: A little heavy on themes and intrigue around the main character – makes the audience lose the thread of the story somewhat.
Our Verdict: A dark western comedy fit for anyone who enjoys good dialogues, a main protagonist with an uncanny resemblance to Clint Eastwood and intense moral topics.
Courtesy of the Tabard Theatre
Dogstar is currently running at the Tabard Theatre, a small, quaint venue next to Turnham Green Station. When entering the theatre, the slightly rugged red velvet seats look onto a small stage. A bluish mist hangs over the eerie, cowboy saloon where the drama will later unfurl. To the left sits a counter with a centuries old till that opens with the classic ‘clink’ of old western movies and a door leading offstage (presumably deeper into the bar). The counter, the table and chairs to the centre and the swinging doors to the right are painted bright blue, in contrast with the shabby wooden panels that make up the walls of the establishment.
Sitting on the bar, drinking an unusually large glass of something that looks like vodka, the tall, dark stranger present in every classic western sits. Think Clint Eastwood in The Good, The Bad and The Ugly, but darker and more solemn. He is dressed in a worn-out cowboy outfit covered in dirt. The scene opens and Clay, the First Citizen of the town (played by Rhys King), storms into the saloon urging the mysterious stranger, Dogstar (played by Ben Warwick) to pay for the water he has been drinking (the glass that was inexplicably full of vodka was actually water). This evolves into a heated discussion about how Clay owns the water since it has been drilled out of his land, and that therefore Dogstar must pay for it. Everything worth having must have a price in order to convey its worth. Dogstar, never loosing his Eastwood cool, answers Clay’s outbursts monosyllabically, and eventually Clay gives up and leaves. When the squeaky barman (James Sygrove) offers Dogstar some friendly advice (for free) Dogstar reasons that his advice is worthless, since it is free. Further on we meet Violet – played by Laura Pradelska – the town virgin and Dogstar’s rather unusual love interest. She is obsessed with maintaining her status by selling her virginity to the highest bidder.
The absurdity, witty dialogues and tangled situations between the mysterious stranger and the characters in town build in this one-act production. The exploration of the concept of ownership provides a very philosophical theatrical experience with dark humour lifting the gravity of the topics. The question of how you measure worth and value is the basic theme of Dogstar, and it translates into some very memorable arguments about friendship, the value of a person, and even the value of God. But as scenes move on the richness of the themes and increasing mystery surrounding Dogstar make for a little too much effort on the audience’s part to follow and pinpoint the really important parts.
Overall, there’s great writing filtering through the fantastic arguments and dialogues, exploration of some intense moral topics, and a good dose of intrigue in this dark comedy. I recommend having a glass of water (of course) after the show and philosophising in the charming Tabard Pub downstairs.

Please feel free to leave your thoughts and opinions in the comments section below!

Dogstar runs at Tabard Theatre until 30th November 2013.
Box Office: 0208 995 6035 or book online at www.tabardweb.co.uk

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