Man’s Best Friend – Play, Pie & Pint

Written by Douglas Maxwell

Directed by Jemima Levick

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Ronnie’s life is woefully prosaic and wonderfully unremarkable. Every morning, Ronnie collects the neighbours’ dogs for their routine walk – he isn’t particularly good at it, but the dogs seem to appreciate the company. Whether it’s Rex, a young couple’s new puppy, or the bright orange muzzled softy – there’s something about this time taken with the dogs which momentarily distracts from his wife’s passing and returns Ronnie to ordinary life.

But then he finds a body.

The intensity of an hour-long monologue isn’t lost on the audience, as they engage with Watson’s humour and manner with a resounding appreciation of his humour and pacing. Difficulties can arise when there is nothing to engage with other than a voice, but Maxwell’s storytelling, along with Jonathan Watson’s effortless charm is distinct enough to hold the crowd – and gradually, as the poignancy of the tale begins to overlap with the comedy, touches the audience greatly.

Once exuberance exuding and playful, Maxwell’s narrative flows down an unexpected path, beautifully illustrated by Gemma Patchett and Jonny Scott’s clean and simple set design of elevation and a singular, weaving path. The melancholy take on the story of a lost soul, guided by these lost dogs as he reflects on the anxieties and stresses of the pandemic, and both the mental and emotional toll this has taken on him without realisation is a genuinely profound experience wrapped in something unassuming.

And those familiar with Watson’s recent performance in Fibres will recognise that though renowned for his comedic performance, Watson’s capabilities with drama tie remarkably well with Maxwell’s blending of form, infusing comedy and drama together beautifully. In the shift from observational humour, Watson channels a stand-up momentum upon a podium in Infront of his audience as his character is slowly stripped bare into a mortal man, accessible and relatable in his struggles and blinded nature to them.

Given Watson’s stellar performance, Jemima Levick’s direction makes efforts to tail the production towards its more poignant angle, and at first, the juxtaposing is momentarily jarring but is handled with deft to become understandable and maintain pacing – even with the lighting design leaning a touch on the melodramatic.

For a compact piece, Maxwell’s Man’s Best Friend is a thoroughly recommendable slice of Theatre. Watson makes for an engaging presence, channelling an intimacy with the audience, lulling them with the production’s humour before embarking on a brief adventure to find not only these lost dogs, but a lost sense of self, purpose, and appreciation.

Man’s Best Friend runs at the Traverse Theatre until April 2nd. Tickets for which can be obtained here.

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