One of the brilliant things about Annie Hulley’s debut play Dog Days, is that it is completely and utterly unexpected. The audience walk in the theatre with their glasses of white wine and coats slung over their arms and simply don’t expect to be blown away by this raw and dynamic piece of writing.
Set in an average house, on an average street, Dog Days follows an average couple as they try and divide their assets during a trial separation. The paint is peeling from the corners of the wall, the nick-nacks gathering dust on shelves and this couple’s relationship has crumbled into bitterness and resentment. So far, so EastEnders. But when a mystery couple arrive at their doorstep offering to buy their house in cash all hell breaks loose
As well playwright, Annie Hulley also takes on the role of Cate; a lonely housewife who welcomes the new couple into her and her husband’s lives without thinking of the consequences. Hulley boils over and explodes with frustration, while creating the faint scent of maddness that grows throughout the play. As Cate’s husband Jonathon Oliver embodies a middle management man whose life is slowly spiralling out of control. Oliver and Hulley manage to skate and dart around each other like a couple who have been together for decades, but their cutting remarks and snarling attitudes convey a deep-seated hatred that has washed away any love that was once there.
Peter Bramhill and Lashana Lynch burst into the set as Hayley and Tony, a young, brash couple with grand designs on the pokey little house. Lynch explodes onto the set with a never-ending stream of funny anecdotes, TOWIE style nattering and pop culture references, while Bramhill brings out the Danny Dyer in Tony. Throughout the play Bramhill hints at a sinister nature under the banter and at the show’s climatic end he gives a twisted performance that leaves the audience with open mouths.
Lisa Cagnacci’s direction is slick and seamless with attention to detail that makes the show feel plausible. Empty takeaway containers have the remnants of sweet and sour sauce, the bookcase has the series of readers digest novels and Tony & Hayley’s belongings look like they should be covered in rhinestones.
If broken characters, tension filled scenes and a surprising number of belly laughs are what you’re looking for then get a ticket for Dog Days, you most certainly won’t be disappointed.
Reviewed by Roz Carter