Pros: Brilliantly gory, the cast take on this tale of betrayal with vigour.
Cons: Sometimes the dialogue felt a little plodding and we went through scenes where nothing really happened.
Anyone who has been to the Tabard Theatre will know that it’s an intimate space. This is often a positive, as it puts the audience in the middle of the action. This is not such a pleasant experience when you are mere inches away from scenes of a sexual (and indeed quite violent) nature – but it is quite exciting.
Blush of Dogs (I must’ve missed a line because I still have no idea why it’s called that) is a retelling of the Thyestes myth – no, me neither – by writer/director Roland Reynolds. The tale is one of lust and treachery and above all, of blood. There are shades of Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus in this play, as well as other Greek tragedies – particularly the psychosexual Oedipus.
The play uses the typical tropes of the classical Greek tragedy where a lot of the action happens offstage and is retold (often by the chorus). Although this device is well accomplished, the effect is somewhat dulling. There’s a reason we don’t really write plays like that anymore – it just isn’t that exciting.
The performances are startlingly good: Ben Alderton’s desperate King Atreus both frightening and frighteningly human; Anna Procter plays his wife Aerope by turns a victim, others a femme fatale, and Mike Corsale’s Thyestes is brilliantly manic. If you’ve seen the US version of Shameless – Thyestes is basically Mickey Milkovich: oversexed, thuggish and permanently agitated. The three actors also double up as chorus and blind prophet Tiresias but these scenes are the weakest part of the play, repetitive and not really going anywhere.
The minor roles do offer a showcase for the design, which works well, efficiently creating the war-ravaged society beyond the palace walls. The idea of constant dirt and mess is also alluded to in the dialogue, and works as an effective motif. The dark world of postwar chaos fills us in the audience with a sense of doom from the beginning to the very end of this piece.
Blush of Dogs is an interesting piece of theatre, a new take on an old myth, adhering to the classical form of Greek tragedy. I do feel that the dialogue and general storytelling wasn’t as sharp as it could have been but the characters were well drawn and expertly performed. One warning: this is definitely not one for the faint-hearted – you’ll need iron guts to get through this one, and a certain amount of bloodlust to enjoy the final minutes. But if you love gore – as I do – and are of the classical persuasion, I’d definitely advise you to head to the Tabard in the next two weeks to catch this intriguing production.
Directed and Written by: Roland Reynolds
Producer: Fragen Theatre Company
Designer: Isabella Van Braeckel
Lighting Design: Alex Hopkins
Box Office: 0208 995 6035
Booking Link: http://www.tabardweb.co.uk/blushofdogs.htm
Booking Until: 25 April 2015.