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Home arrow Archive: EdFringe 2013 arrow The Suicidal Tendencies of Sheep and a Dog Called the Hoff
The Suicidal Tendencies of Sheep and a Dog Called the Hoff
Published on Tuesday, 06 August 2013

2 stars

theSpace on North Bridge (venue website)
2-3, 5-10, 12-17, 19-24 Aug, 4:05pm-4:55pm
Reviewed by Richard Stamp

 Recommended for age 12+ only.

It’s got a weird old title, but The Suicidal Tendencies Of Sheep And A Dog Named The Hoff is really quite a straightforward play. Set at the start of a weekend stag do, it aims to be a funny-but-touching assessment of male friendship, in the face of a looming tragedy. It’s a well-observed script, but ultimately quite insubstantial – and I left disappointed that it hadn’t taken me to some more challenging places, or taught me more about how I should aspire to be.

Let’s get this out of the way first of all.  The four men are trapped in a hotel room – not because of some fearful catastrophe developing outside, but because the handle has fallen off the door.  The room has no windows, it doesn’t contain a phone, there’s no signal for their mobiles… and the door’s presumably so solid that four strong men armed with heavy furniture can’t manage to break it down.  This really has to be one of the weakest plot devices I’ve seen in a serious play, and it’s completely unnecessary anyway; given the emotionally-charged scenario that’s about to unfold, the room could have acquired a sense of suffocating claustrophobia without any need for our unfortunate lads to be literally locked in.

But aside from that star-crossed door handle, the themes of the script ring painfully true.  One of the group is ill – maybe terminally so – and as the four best friends come to terms with this reminder of their mortality, they quarrel, compete, and needle each other as those who’ve spent years in each other’s company often do.  But they offer each other a blokeish kind of support as well, and playwright Sarah Hailstones displays a keen understanding of how such relationships work.  I’ve never been in quite the situation portrayed, but I still recognised plenty of scenes from my own path through life.

Sad to say, though, the acting didn’t do full justice to the potential of the script.  I felt all the way through that I was just listening to lines being spoken in order, rather than eavesdropping on a real dialogue between the characters on the stage.  What’s more, for a play that’s all about reserved men struggling to find an emotional connection, there’s surprisingly little emotion (repressed or otherwise) on display.  The occasional moments of tenderness – the kind words and the slaps on the shoulder – ought to be deeply touching, but instead I thought they were too often thrown away.

The narrative seemed to stop rather than coming to an ending and despite the fact that I strongly identified with many of the men in the room, I left without much of an idea what the script had intended to teach me.  So all in all, I tip my hat to a well-written portrayal of what it’s like when a particular type of people get together – and to a few interesting insights on the nature of relationships between old friends.  But I’m afraid it needs to be a little bit more than that, before it’ll open any doors for its creators.

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