Gundog at the Royal Court Theatre
Rapid-fire dialogue, strobe lighting and lots of dirt. This is Gundog, written by Simon Longman and directed by Vicky Featherstone. Set on an isolated and run-down English farm, the play follows two sisters struggling as shepherds, trying to hold their livelihood together after the worst happens.
Ria Zmitrowicz is brilliant as the inquisitive, motor-mouthed younger sister, Becky. But it’s very much Longman’s dialogue that brings the character to life. She’s always talking, consistently asking questions and constantly making the audience laugh, which lends tremendous power to when she isn’t, when she’s just lying in the mud.
Not content with a farmyard backdrop, the set of Gundog is literally a muddy field. It’s quite probably the most stunning set that any small production in London has. The actors walk on real mounds of soil while a smokey screen behind shows beautiful colours depicting the time of day.
The narrative is brutally punctuated by crashing noises and flashing lights, creating a constant tension in a show where years pass at the blink of an idea without anything changing.
The whole production feels more like a piece of art than a play. It’s a flood of artistic expression and experimentation. The dialogue, the set, the background, the lighting, the sounds, even the way time passes in the story. Everything feels deliberately offbeat. It’s art but not in a pretentious way; it’s inclusive and easy to appreciate.
With no interval, the nearly two-hour show does begin to wane towards the end but through no fault of its own. The benches in the Jerwood Theatre Upstairs at the Royal Court are just a little too uncomfortable to sit on for that amount of time. A shame, as the Royal Court is otherwise a superb theatre.
Gundog is interesting. At every turn there’s something to admire and appreciate about this play. Well worth a watch for anyone interested in how more artistic elements can tell a story.
Photo: Manuel Harlan
Gundog is at the Royal Court Theatre from 31st January until 10th March 2018. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.