Guest writer Steve Ralph was so impressed by Little Dogs that we asked him to do a review for the Siren! Read on to see what it was that made the performance so enjoyable.

By Steve Ralph

When one walks down Wind Street they are met by many sights, sounds and smells. It is the heart of the city: the girls stumbling up and down the cobbles with heels in hand; boys with bloody noses and ripped t-shirts; greasy cheesy chips being shovelled into mouths of booze soaked students and locals alike.

Little Dogs examines the motivation and gives a tell-all approach to the endeavours of the youth of today. National Theatre Wales has constructed a play, yet again that is incredibly different from the norm and also something that incorporates numerous art forms.

From the beginning the audience is invested into the play with one single set placed right in front of them. The first scene has no dialogue and simply features an adolescent and an elderly woman. Despite a total lack of dialogue you understand the scene completely. That is until that the set is ripped in two.

A thumping bassline fills the room. The woman leaves the stage as the set changes. A street is shown and dancers with lighters dance in front and around you. Once the first routine is finished the first section of dialogue begins: a young gentlemen discuses the ways of being “’ard” and how to seduce women. Facial hair being key. The C-bomb is dropped within his first conversation with the audience. It is not for the faint hearted.

By my own omission I saw the first dance scene and thought to myself, “Oh great, its going to be some teen performance failing to see the truth in anything with awful music and dancers”. My opinion was changed very quickly, a view of cynicism was replaced with one of reverence.

Humour is the key to this performance as is your ability to move with the story, literally. The dancers will beckon you to move and will also push you around. It is one of the many things that makes it incredible, you are part of the performance. Every sense is stimulated: the music; the touch of the actors; the smell of smoke; visual changes; and the taste of the Pati Raj you had before hand (10% off your bill when the ticket is shown).

One of the things that will stay with you is how quintessentially Welsh the play is- it embodies Welsh culture so well. The dialogue is hilarious, and performs a close analysis of the differences in men and women during the throws of youth; their ways of seduction and the varying levels of respect they have for each other.

Quite probably one of the most exciting scenes is the toilet stall scene, used in the advertisements for the play. Three stalls are shown, characters run in and out of them; vomiting, defecating, performing sexual acts and passing out.

Before all this begins a female character takes centre stage and explains: “If I look at you, look away and then look back, it doesn’t mean I want to get with you. If I look at you, look away, look at the ground and laugh then look back at you, means I’m gonna get on you”.

At one point, you do see a man’s buttocks, in fact you see three sets of buttocks, not complaining, just be prepared. The onslaught of behaviour in the stalls is interrupted at one point (as are several scenes) by the appearance of the maternal figure from the first scene. She appears in the central stall with two of the girls strewn over her.

Another scene takes you away from all the sex and alcoholism and expresses love. How indefinable it is, how much trouble the characters have expressing it. The issues of; time, fear and frustration at being unable to fully express oneself are harrowing. Three actors stand near and convey the angst well. The pile of refuse and a trick of the light ( a surprise that I will not spoil) add a depth to the play that you would not expect.

The vacuous and rowdy behaviour of youth is mixed with the interplay of sorrowful scenes as well as a scene in which the characters are in their underwear and discuss religious ideas and how their behaviour can be seen as immoral.

Dance scenes are incredibly well choreographed and add so much more to the performance. Leans and falls as well as the movement of bodies not just in a fast fashion but also ones of reverence are throughout the play. The expression through dance cannot be faulted in this production.

A peculiar end to the play gives it a final edge. The maternal figure that has been present throughout and said very little, gives a speech of how she will look after the children of Wales: the speech derived very much from Dylan Thomas (the title of the play itself is a reference to Dylan Thomas’ penis).

Genuinely, the only negative thing I can say is that I wanted it to last longer. Continued swearing, passion, alcoholism, raw emotion and sex are but aspects of the play.  How would I describe Little Dogs in a few words : Harrowing, crude yet clever, gritty and just truly amazing. The show carries on until Saturday 19th May. I highly recommend it.

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