Mad Like Roar, an emerging company from RCSSD, makes their first Fringe appearance with a devised piece about the effect of a father’s final illness on his children and their loved ones. Taking after a classic kitchen sink drama with faster pacing and a wider reach – both in setting and time spanned – Alan, We Think You Should Get a Dog offers a terrifying insight into a family pushed to the brink. While characterisation is rather one-note and jumps in time and dramatic structure make for an uneven tone, it is a notable debut performed by fully committed, talented young actors.
The titular Alan is never seen on stage; the patriarch of the family is ailing, and son Ollie (a high-strung, assertive Jamie Chandler) gives up on his family while daughter Daisy (an astute, graceful Sophie Dessauer) tries to pull everyone back together. Add in Daisy’s endlessly patient boyfriend and a young woman who repeatedly crosses paths with Ollie (Abe Buckoke and Rachel Hosker, both excellent and confident performers) and miscommunications, heartbreaks, and shining moments of kindness and humour ensue. The four-person ensemble is confident in their material, even if a few of the subtler moments are lost amid the more extreme emotional turns – it will be exciting to see what happens in their fledgling careers.
After a linear first few scenes of narrative, the play switches to a quasi-vignette format. While a bit of a jarring transition, the broken views into the family’s life is effective in its unpredictability, instability, and rawness – lending the piece a ray of verisimilitude. One wishes this snapshot-like structure and its accompanying impressionistic scene transitions had been more clearly established from the opening; they are more effective and evocative in a one-hour, black-box setting than the opening’s more traditional staging.
The climax of the show – while memorable – feels out of character; the figures on stage (and indeed the ever-unseen Alan) undoubtedly undergo physical, mental, and emotional turmoil, yet the ‘breaking point’ feels pushed out from a place of shock value, not of truth. It feels like either more material should have been worked in to bring this conclusion to its fruition or a more muted ending should have been settled upon.
Alan, We Think You Should Get a Dog is a promising Fringe debut from a fresh, exuberant company fresh out of drama school; the bumps in the dramatic structure and characterisation are growing pains and do not detract from the auspicious performances on show.
Alan, We Think You Should Get a Dog plays at the Pleasance Courtyard (Venue 33) from 5-13th August and from 15-28th August. The performances start at 15.30 and tickets cost £11.50 (concessions £10.50). Two-for-one tickets are available on 7th and 8th August. For more information and to purchase tickets, visit https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/alan-we-think-you-should-get-a-dog.
Daisy – Sophie Dessauer
Ollie – Jamie Chandler
Christian – Abe Buckoke
Becca – Rachel Hosker
Written and created by the Company
Directed by Sam Hardie & Lucas Button
Lighting Design by Ben Jacobs
Sound Design by Lucas Button