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The Dog Walker (Susan Elkin reviews)

The Dog Walker
By Paul Minx
performance date: 15 Feb 2020
venue: Jermyn Street Theatre, 16b Jermyn Street, London SW1Y 6ST


We’re in New York in a grubby, untidy upstairs flat. Keri Levin (Victoria Yeates) and Herbert Doakes (Andrew Dennis) are “two peas in the same damaged pod”. Life has not treated either of them kindly. Both are broken by personal tragedy, we realise as their back stories gradually unfold, but I’ll spare you the spoilers.

In other ways they are diametrically different. Keri is lost to trauma. She’s alcoholic, drug addicted, crazed, deluded, sluttish, agoraphobic and showing traits of nymphomania but her wits are sharp and she has a good line in cutting and/or deliberately inappropriate remarks. Then her agency dog walker arrives in the shape of businesslike but brittle Herbert. And the first thing to say about this very funny, achingly poignant, ultimately hopeful, ninety-minute piece is that these two actors work outstandingly well together: listening, snapping back, arguing, condoling, bouncing off each other and making expert use of pauses and silence. And they do all this using pretty convincing New York accents.

Yeates has a way of gazing soulfully which speaks volumes about her mental health as she develops her character so that she’s riveting as well as horrifying. Dennis’s character is a complete contrast and, my goodness, how he captures his character’s mood swings as we shift through time in three acts separated by just a minute or two for costume change and breath drawing. Doakes goes from being briskly professional, sensible and reasonable to embittered succumbing to passion and anguish (and drink) but also always comic to a greater or lesser extent because the situation itself is so incongruous.

The Dog Walker is an entertaining and thoughtful new play, intelligently presented under Harry Burton’s direction. And Isabella Van Braeckel’s messy set for Keri’s flat, centered round her unmade bed, sets the scene nicely. Definitely one for the try-and-see list.


First published by Sardines:

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Susan Elkin Susan Elkin is an education journalist, author and former secondary teacher of English. She was Education and Training Editor at The Stage from 2005 - 2016
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