Several months ago my ET colleague Ezzy reviewed Dog/Actor when it passed through Liverpool. She gave it the full 5-stars. It certainly looked a show worth seeing, so on discovering it would be playing at Camden Fringe I immediately put my money where my mouth is and booked myself some tickets. So tonight was not a press freebie, I happily paid for this.
But press comp or not, as I was already going to be at Etcetera Theatre for Colombia March anyway, there seemed no reason not to review Dog/ Actor again. But then I started to worry – what if I just didn’t like it? What if I started questioning Ezzy’s 5-star review?
Well, I shouldn’t have worried. Dog/Actor SMASHED it. Five stars.
That’s it, that’s the review. Well, except that’s not the review, I have to write something about the show really don’t I? So here goes…
Stephen Smith delivers two short Steven Berkoff plays back-to-back. There is no set, there are no props – all focus is on Smith and Smith alone. There is no hiding.
The first of the plays, Dog, sees Smith playing both a racist football hooligan and his Pitbull Roy – the change between them is magnificent. The physical theatre, the mime Smith brings to having control (or what he thinks is control) of Roy and the way he shows how strong and strong-willed Roy is, is simply jaw-dropping. I could see Roy. I could see the van. I could see everything; the pub, the violence, the blood. It is not just the physical theatre though, Smith’s performance also somehow manages to bring an element of sympathy and empathy for this intensely dislikeable character.
The second play is Actor. Here Smith plays, as the title suggests, actor, an out-of-work one. As he moves (mostly) forwards, we hear a poetic monologue on the grind of going from audition to audition. Along the way he meets his peers, many of who have much greater success than him – something he cannot understand and of which he is immensely jealous. There is a level of paranoia and self-doubt running through everything. It is shown as an ugly life, and it cannot help but affect the people caught up with him – willingly or otherwise. Actor shows us pushing ahead but also (and in this case literally) looking back over our shoulders and doubting ourselves. It’s certainly a universal theme that we can all relate to, actor or not.
These are two very different short plays with extremely diverse characters. It requires two absolutely different performances. It is clear from this double bill that the range and skill shown by Smith is, quite frankly, ridiculously impressive, not to mention captivating. To top it all off, Smith also directs himself. A remarkable show from a remarkable performer.
Okay, that’s the review. Still 5 stars, still SMASHED it.
Written by: Steven Berkoff
Directed by: Stephen Smith
Produced by: Threedumb Theatre
Dog / Actor plays at Etcetera Theatre until 6 August. Further information and bookings can be found here.
The show then moves to Edinburgh from 15 – 20 August. Further information here.