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Review: Dog/ Actor, Hope Street Theatre – Liverpool

Every now and then a performer comes along with a performance that leaves an unforgettable impression. With his interpretation of two Steven Berkoff plays, Stephen Smith commands the stage, showcasing an impressive range of acting skills. The creativity is high, there is attention to detail and the approach is original. Before attending, I was expecting to see an actor deliver a couple of monologues with a few props. This, when done well, can be a memorable experience in itself. Combine the ability to deliver words eloquently with expertise in physical theatre, timing and audience rapport and you have Smith.…

Summary

Rating

Unmissable

Original, entertaining and one to watch. Stephen Smith is a hurricane of talent and his delivery of Dog/Actor is not to be missed.

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Every now and then a performer comes along with a performance that leaves an unforgettable impression. With his interpretation of two Steven Berkoff plays, Stephen Smith commands the stage, showcasing an impressive range of acting skills. The creativity is high, there is attention to detail and the approach is original.

Before attending, I was expecting to see an actor deliver a couple of monologues with a few props. This, when done well, can be a memorable experience in itself. Combine the ability to deliver words eloquently with expertise in physical theatre, timing and audience rapport and you have Smith.

Upon entering the theatre this evening, there was a relaxing, jovial ambience as we waited for the event to begin; just ordinary. This soon provided a stark contrast for when the sound dipped to silence and Smith walked on stage, illuminated by a single spotlight. The mood had seemingly been switched instantly and all eyes were on him.

An exceptional example of Berkovian theatre, his presentation of Dog/Actor not only brings the work of Berkoff to new, fringe audiences, but showcases the skillsets essential to a good actor. Performances can take many forms: within Dog/Actor, the audience is reminded that performers hold a repertoire of talents, drawing on them to create the experience we receive.

The first of his performances, Dog, provides an insight into the life of a racist football hooligan and his pitbull terrier, Roy. The audience are drawn into the characterisation through both the ‘face-to-audience’ style of delivery and the clever writing, which ensure they are engrossed in the storytelling. It is a monologue constructed with a ‘story within a story’ format, such as a comedian might use, and Smith had the audience invested very early on, garnering laughs and knowing looks. Be ready to see him switch between being the owner and the dog throughout – this was done with perfection.

The second performance focuses on the acting industry, humorously and poignantly portraying the trying life of a struggling artist. Here, we see Smith seamlessly become a range of different characters, differentiated through his movements, expressions and voice. The live transformations he makes are an acting masterclass.

Although a short set (Dog/Actor runs for around 50mins) it packs a lot in. Why not go and see for yourself how Threedumb Theatre have taken Berkoff’s plays to a new level.

Written by: Steven Berkoff
Directed and performed by: Stephen Smith
Produced by: Threedumb Theatre

Dog/ Actor has finished its run at Hope Street. The show will play Wimbledon (June), Cambridge (July), Camden (August) and Edinburgh (August). CHeck the company’s website here for further details.

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