Heart of a Dog – Civic Theatre – Dublin Theatre Festival – Review
Venue – Civic Theatre
Date(s) – 30 Sept– 3 Oct, 8pm
We meet the protagonist of the piece, a stray dog (Matthew O’Brien), as he lives on the streets of Moscow. His main concerns are where he will find food and warmth, as he lives from one day to the next. One night, he encounters a man (Derbhle Crotty) who feeds him and takes him home. His new owner gives him a name; Sharik. His owner is a famous surgeon and we see him carry out many operations on people in the community. The surgeon has plans for the dog which are not altogether altruistic. He intends to carry out an operation that could change the dog forever, transforming him into something quite new!
Heart of a Dog is a novella written by Russian author Mikhail Bulgakov in 1925, which he later converted into a play. It is an allegory of the Communist revolution and it was banned in its home country for over 60 years. This is a new version of the play by Éadaoin O’ Donoghue, which was “transplanted” from the original. The adaptation uses elements of the original but omits some sections and substantially changes others including the ending.
The early scenes use a puppet to show the dog on the streets of Moscow. Matthew O’Brien operates the dog while telling the audience what is going on inside the mongrel’s mind. He later dispenses with the puppet as the dog undergoes a transformation into a man. O’Brien is on stage throughout the production and performs admirably with this extremely physical role. He is a dog trapped inside the body of a man and he struggles with his new physique, like a later day Frankenstein. The two other main parts are the surgeon (Crotty) and his assistant (Steve Blout) and both do well in their respective roles. There are also a number of minor parts, played by Michael Grennell, Karen McCartney and Cathy White to fill out the world of the play.
There is a lot of humour in this production. While the subject matter is quite dark in nature, director John O’Brien treats this topic with a light touch and a smile is never far from your face. The dog is an outsider in human society and this allows him to tell a number of home truths to those around him. It’s a bright and brash tale that is told in inventive fashion.
Cast & Creative Team –
Starred – Derbhle Crotty, Matthew O’Brien, Steve Blount, Michael Grennell, Karen McCartney and Cathy White
Directed by John O’Brien
Set & Costume Design: Lisa Zagone
Choreography: Philip Connaughton
Lighting Design: Stephen Dodd
Sound Design: Peter Power
Music Composition: Peter Power & John O’Brien
Produced by Naomi Daly