A gritty and absorbing story, brilliantly performed
By Owen James
Simon Longman‘s fierce drama ‘Gundog’ has made its Australian Premiere thanks to Three Fates Theatre, a small independent company rising from strength to strength with each production they present.
Gundog was first presented at the Royal Court Theatre in London, the home of unmatched modern English playwrights including Simon Stephens, Tim Crouch, and Martin McDonagh – and Longman’s dynamic script exudes the urgency and explosive dialogue we have come to expect from his contemporaries and the Royal Court. It’s a superb choice of text to present, capturing the audience in the puzzle of a non-linear timeline and drawing us into the fate of this turbulent family.
Director Alonso Pineda has masterfully captured the isolation and cynicism that bleeds from every page, crafting a heartbreaking interpretation of this raw, ‘timeless’ world. The unrelenting advance of time is the core theme, perhaps reiterated with too heavy a hand in the writing, but reflected in a visceral and considered approach in this staging.
Freya Allen‘s innovative set design aligns seamlessly with a lighting design from Harrie Hogan. Coupled together, these designs transform the bite-sized Loft stage into a farm, replete with sheep and rusty shears. Their work especially pays off marking each transition in time, footlights circling and set rearranging. Costume design by Zoe Hawkins is faultless, making great use of farm-like stains and intricate detail.
This ensemble of five are perfectly cast, together forming a believable dysfunctional family unit, and individually delivering balanced and nuanced performances. Thalía Dudek, a co-founder of Three Fates, holds this ensemble together as Becky, the optimistic younger sibling keeping their head high despite grave circumstance. Their transitions between ages are steeped in detail, and successfully convey a litany of thought in just a glance. One to watch.
Andy Johnston‘s physical, connected performance as Ben is emotional, and often chilling. Taking on the character with perhaps the biggest arc in the piece, his journey from confident to vulnerable, and all states inbetween, is very moving, and performed with considerable tenacity. Dion Mills is the audience favourite, a fireball of energy and gravitas. He has us in his hands with every word from grandfather Mick. Alexandros Pettas confidently carries the arc of foreigner Guy, and Laura McCluskey is touching as Anna, displaying firm determination to hold strong through loss and abandonment.
A gritty and absorbing story, brilliantly performed.