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Review: The Delights of Dogs and The Problems with People (The Old Red Lion Theatre)

The Delights of Dogs and the Problems with People is a play written by Rosalind Blessed that explores control and abuse in relationships. It is currently playing in rep with another of Blessed’s plays, Lullabies for the Lost, at The Old Red Lion Theatre.

Although a tad frustrating at first as the plot progresses, thanks to Blessed’s clever writing, we are drip fed clues to the true nature of what may be developing in front of our eyes.

Blessed’s male character, James, needs a strong actor to bring him to life and Duncan Wilkins more than meets this challenge. From what may be the first slight slip in his mask early on, to a realistic drunk scene, to his character’s final monologue, he is impressive. This final monologue, as others in the play, is a tad too long and I feel that less would be more but it is performed very powerfully. Wilkins also believably becomes Ben the dog, showcasing that he is a fine physical theatre performer. He has a great range, with his portrayal of the character of James contrasting strongly with the character of Ash that he plays earlier in the evening, in Lullabies for the Lost.

Alongside Wilkins in this two-hander is Blessed, playing the role of Robin. The part has the same name of that which she plays in Lullabies for the Lost and, whilst it is unclear whether they are supposed to be the same character and a link between both works, they are performed in a similar way.

At first The Delights of Dogs and the Problems with People is very monologue heavy, with small snatches of dialogue, and I was concerned that it would become quite stagnant for it. However, the characters begin to break from this to address their true thoughts in a non-naturalistic way and this is when the play really gets it pace. These break away moments are added to by snappy and sharp lighting changes by Mark Dymock.

Design by Anna Kezia Williams is simple but effective. A particularly nice touch is the toilet that Blessed brings on and sits upon to deliver a monologue. This basic change in set somehow lifts the speech and makes it more interesting to watch.

The play deals with extremely important subject matter and will certainly resonate with anyone who on any level has ever had an obsessive ex-partner. Some may be bothered by its ending but it is reflective of how real life sometimes is and is portrayed realistically. Blessed’s writing is so clever in its way of making us as an audience question whether our instincts and reactions to the characters are right that it may well prompt us to ask those questions of others and recognise worrying patterns in our real-life relationships and acquaintances. If it does this that could lead to lives being improved and maybe even saved – which just goes to show how important well written drama is. To quote Blessed’s Robin, the more I think about this intelligent and insidious piece of writing the more “mentally itchy” I feel.

The Delights of Dogs and The Problems with People is on at The Old Red Lion Theatre until the 1st Feb. Tickets available here -

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