|Photo by Brett Boardman|
Griffin Theatre Company presents, DOGGED, by Andrea James and Catherine Ryan, at the SBW Theatre, Darlinghurst/Kings Cross. 30th April - 3rd June.
DOGGED, by Andrea James and Catherine Ryan, directed by Declan Greene, is a new Australian play. It is set in the 1840's during the colonisation with sheep farmers in the electorate that became McMillan, up in the Alpine district that we know today as Monash, but is Gunaikurnai land.
DOGGED is an Australian Gothic tale of a white farm daughter (Blazey Best) with her dog (Anthony Yangoyan) scrambling in the primitive bush for a living and engaging with a Mother Dingo (Sandy Greenwood), in search of her "little ones", her lost pups. It is a bleak unforgiving land realised in an oppressive black and white envelopment by Designer, Renee Mulder: claustrophobic walls, floor and roof, that is pierced by atmospheres of light created by Verity Hampson, met by the eerie and penetrating musical score by Steve Toulmin. It is the constant aural presence of the Sound that is a pregnant propellant of the tension of the storytelling.
Catherine Ryan has written a poem play with the dialectical grounding of the Gunaikurnai woman Andrea James. The language is for the human and the animals of the story- the dogs and dingo - accompanied by a physical muscularity created on the bodies of Sandy Greenwood and Anthony Yangoyan by Kirk Page.
It is an intense and impressive 80 minute immersion into a dark time past in a territory of bleak scratchings for the means of survival. It is primitive and full of blood, blood and brutal domination, told with a sense of savage time and place, but resonating with the terror and horror of the cycles of life that do reveal, then disappear but, inevitably reappear. Sitting in our seats in the SBW Theatre, 2021, the patterns of nature are still palpable and present - the engagements of the past are the meetings of today.
The production is mostly a visceral confrontation that is physically exciting - breathtaking - if it is not quite as thrilling in the delivery of the vocal work that is often full of noise and blurred content (remember, as a contrast, the poetry of Angus Cerini's 2013 play THE BLEEDING TREE), Problems with text, are its many stagnating repetitions that slow the advancement of the action of the play - though, that is buoyed by the propulsive and incessant score, disguised by the energetic force of the committed actors and their personal belief in the webbing of the play.
I felt the content and protest of the play had been more or less superseded by the Gothic power of the text of the play THE DROVER'S WIFE, by Leah Purcell (2016), and, certainly, in the Screenplay of THE NIGHTINGALE, by Jennifer Kent (2018). The magical realism of the mask and physical possession of the actors in creating the storytellers of this story is a theatrical feat but I felt it landed as a phenomenon for the young adult audience.
DOGGED, may capture the attention of some, but mostly for its theatrical genre and 'tricks', and not for its message that I felt I had heard before and with more adult power of confrontation.