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Dog Rough

3 starsReviewed by Richard Stamp
Underground Venues
4 & 7 Jul 1:30pm to 4:30pm, 8-9 Jul 6:30pm to 8:30pm, 11 & 14 Jul 1:30pm to 4:30pm, 15-16 Jul 6:30pm to 8:30pm, 18 Jul 1:30pm to 4:30pm. These times are 'windows' - the show lasts 10 minutes.

Dog Rough isn’t a conventional piece of theatre.  For one thing, you listen to the whole thing through a huge pair of headphones; and for another, you’ll be sent out of Underground Venues to enjoy it in the open air.  As well as the super-sized earpieces, you’ll get to wear a jacket – “men traditionally choose the leather one”, the box office informed me – and if you rummage round in its capacious pockets, you’ll find you’re carrying a handful of props with relevance to the voices you’re hearing in your ear.

But exactly what you make of this situation is entirely up to you. There are no cues on the recording, no suggestions about how you might like to use the objects you’ve discovered about your person; you just listen to the story, and do what you think is right. For my part, I decided I’d act the whole thing out, so if you’re in Buxton and happened to see an overweight man in an ill-fitting bomber jacket dispensing treats to an invisible dog… well, at least you now know why.

Putting myself in a someone else’s shoes certainly added something to the experience. As a life-long non-smoker, it was particularly disconcerting to find myself sitting on a park bench with a fag packet in my hand. But if the truth be told, there’s nothing especially innovative about this approach to theatre. I was left with the feeling that Dog Rough fell between two stools: if headphone pieces are new to you, then you probably need some more guidance, whereas if you know how to make the most of it then you may well think you’ve trodden this path a few too many times.

The story itself, though, is a satisfying miniature radio play – well-produced, well-acted and genuinely meaningful. Each character has a secret insecurity: the man with his leather jacket and mean-looking dog who’s really a softie inside, and the struggling female jogger who’s been called “dog rough” all her life. For a while, it’s set up for a classic romantic ending, but the real conclusion’s smarter and nastier than that. There’s a lot packed into the 10-minute script, and I find it’s stayed with me longer than its fleeting run-time would imply.

So Dog Rough hasn’t changed my life, or my understanding of theatre – but it’s unquestionably worth three quid, and ten minutes of your time. And if you’re going to do it, then be sure to do it properly: don the shabby jacket, shut out the real world, and see how your inner muse moves you.

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These are archived reviews of shows from Buxton 2013.  We keep our archives online as a courtesy to performers, and for readers who'd like to research previous years' reviews.