Review: Triumph of an absurdist tale

theatre
“Heart Of A Dog”
By Jim McGrath, inspired by Mikhail Bulgakov’s novella of the same name; music by Marc Robertson and directed by Nick Byrne
At The Street Theatre until May 24
Reviewed by Joe Woodward

A BEAUTIFULLY absurdist tale, wonderful characters, complex and intricate music and a top-shelf cast make “Heart Of A Dog” an exciting theatrical outing.

Composer Marc Robertson, left, and writer Jim McGrath.

Composer Marc Robertson, left, and writer Jim McGrath.

The themes of “what makes a man a man” and social/human engineering resonate today as society becomes ever more complex. While set in the Stalinist era of the Soviet Union, the production is very contemporary.

The performances were a little awkward and at times uncertain near the beginning of the show, but the actors seemed to relish in the unbridled freedoms the absurdist style offered.

Benefitting from director Nick Byrne’s “impro” experience, the show was always focused out for the audience. This was achieved by well-crafted vocal and physical characterisations and very dexterous performances.

Dene Kermond’s dog/man was always physically engaging; especially in the second act.

However, to single any one person out from a superb ensemble would give a wrong impression. PJ Williams, Amy Dunham, Ben Drysdale, Maryann Wright, Moya Simpson and Kermond each presented well-studied characters who invited the audience into their absurd world.

The production deserves to travel. The occasional rough edges would easily be worked out with further audience contact.

It is a miracle that it has achieved so much in the limited time for preparation. Now it is ready to be assisted by trusting theatre’s unique relationship with audiences and to become a major Australian theatrical event.

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