NEW work from Derbyshire playwright Tim Elgood is always a treat, especially when he’s back in harness with a director and cast so well matched to his style.
Pete Meakin has been directing his plays for 20 years and knows how best to showcase Elgood’s gifts while Steven Blakeley has long been their actor-of-choice, thanks to his impeccable comic timing and sharp characterisations.
Sean O’Callaghan joined them for Mother Came Too at the same venue a few years back, to the delight of audiences.
All four are reunited for the first of two one-act plays under the Mad Dogs and an Englishman umbrella. For The Dog House, Elgood dips into the fertile comedy ground of a rescue centre, offering us a canine view of the world.
It’s a wise and witty piece, drawing parallels with the emotional wrench that foster children must feel going through an alarmingly similar process.
O’Callaghan is always a commanding presence on stage and impresses again as the Irish wolfhound Paddy who has been institutionalised after two years in the centre and who has reached a time of life when bodily aches and regrets are both equally hurting. Blakeley is the eager to please terrier who will doing anything to find a new home and Laura Freeman is the rebellious lurcher, full of anger and fight.
It strikes a lovely balance between comedy and poignancy.
After the interval, Blakeley is the writer struggling with his own creativity (or lack of it) in Bare Words, a short play that has made a couple of limited appearances previously. It’s a role written with the former Heartbeat star in mind and one that makes full use of his gifts.
Freeman as the seductive conscious who makes Blakeley re-think his work, makes a fine foil in a role that is sharply different from her feisty first half performance.
The two plays are linked by a stunning Andy Miller set that transforms the Guildhall into a dynamic ‘cage’ for both dogs and writer.
A thoroughly enjoyable evening and a rare thing these days, a production that leaves you wanting more.
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Guildhall Theatre, Derby, until May 31