Sex Swansea and Sian Phillips

Little review of ‘Little Dogs’ or ‘How I went to the pub with Arthur Darvill’
So me ‘The Watson’  (as regular readers of this blog may know her) and another work colleague took a road trip to Swansea in the rain (is there any other kind?) to see National Theatre of Wales/Frantic Assembly’s ‘Little Dogs’. Our friend Lisa Well-Turner worked on the production as ‘Emerging Director’ and well, she wont be ‘emerging’ for long because she’s fabulous, so watch this space…or her space. Anyway I digress….
The formally grand Patti Pavilion-now attached to an Indian Restaurant is a fabulous space for a promenade performance. Inside it was transformed in to what I can only describe as a theatrical playground, as we all sat like good little children cross legged on the floor waiting for the performance to begin all I could think  looking at the pieces of set scattered around the room was oooh what’s going to happen there. I wasn’t disappointed.
Having sat like good theatre going folk quietly on the floor we were soon dragged to our feet (almost literally) and separated into boys and girls-losing 1/3 of our party in the process oops! From this initial movement we were propelled from one side of the space to another by the cast-sometimes separated by a dance battle sometimes herded by ‘police’ sometimes beckoned over with a cry of ‘Oi! Haven’t got all day’ making for a fantastic immersive experience. Promenade has it’s downside, terribly British audience don’t always take well to being told ‘move the fuck down’ or variations thereof and older ladies with handbags have sharp elbows to push you out of the way  and Watson got annoyed at some tall skinny bloke blocking her vie (turns out it was Dr Who’s Arthur Darvill).  Overall the chance to move with the actors and move through the story, getting a different perspective depending on where you stood (or who blocked your view) is something special, the way audiences feed off each other to react in that situation is entirely different and interesting experience.
The promenade element (and amusing anecdotes aside) the content of the piece is equally engaging and visually stunning. Few companies managed the visual brilliance and meaningful content as well as frantic assembly.  Where the dialogue is as real as eavesdropping on Wine Street (in Swansea, where the piece is set for non-locals!) at  3am on a Saturday morning. It is also brilliantly funny and moving-from speeches how/how not to pull boys/girls to the raging disappointment of youth, to Sian Phillips’ rousing final speech all of which are balanced by stunning physical theatre and dance that puts some actual dance pieces to shame. This merging and perfect balance of the physical aspects and theatricality is something rarely seen and made for an electrifying performance. In Frantic Assembly’s work there is a seamless transition from the spoken to the physical and you are never left questioning why you are seeing one or the other as the movement is as organic as the young cast’s natural speech.
The cast themselves are equally flawless, merging as a company and standing out individually. Ridiculously talented dancers and it has to be said I’ve not seen as universally good looking a cast in a long time! Sian Phillips of course deserves special mention for sheer magnetism in every scene she is in and for the most wonderfully dramatic monologue that provides a rousing end to the piece.
Little Dogs was one of those pieces that you leave thinking ‘I’ve never seen anything quite like that’ and that resonates in your brain for hours (days?) later. This show is sold out but I urge you to go and see anything by Frantic Assembly and of course anything that involve Ms Lisa Wells-Turner.
Oh and for those curious to the other anecdote associated with this;  Watson spotted Mr Arthur Darvill on the way to the space (I was too busy talking to notice) and obviously noticed his tall self in her way inside. As it happened we also ended up joining the same group going to the pub that night too. Oh Swansea you height of showbiz luvviness you…..

Published by Emily Garside

Academic, journalist and playwright. My PhD was on theatrical responses to the AIDS epidemic, and I continue to write on Queer theatrical history. Professional nerd of all things theatre.

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