REVIEW: DOG ENDS (Tabard Theatre) ★★★★★

Dog Ends Tabard Theatre

A truly hilarious dark comedy, full of fun suspense and Max Bygraves’ music

Dog Ends is about three generations of a family. Sensible Julian and soppy Danielle, played by the excellent Alex Mann and delicious Charlotte Peak who are a young married couple. There is also Julian’s parents George and Beatrice and George’s Dad who is only known as Granddad.

Grandad is an old curmudgeon, who was, some years before, widowed and is, in truth, losing his marbles. He is not easy to look after, he is incontinent but is in denial. He unjustly blames it on the poor dog who sits trustingly at his feet.

George and Beatrice’s next door neighbour, the ever sensible Henry, is played by Jeffrey Holland star of It Ain’t Half Hot Mum and Are You Being Served? Henry is friendly and helpful and has sympathy for his neighbours. He knows what it is like to have to nurse an ailing, aged parent, his own father having recently passed away. But, in his own case, Henry had taken positive action.

This is a hilarious farce, full of misunderstandings, screamingly embarrassing situations and brilliant characters. I, and the rest of the audience, loved every moment of it.

The story drags you along, step by step, into a downward spiral to inevitable disaster. Never quite absurd, always human and gut bustlingly funny. Full marks to the accomplished writer Richard Harris who’s witty prose are what makes this play exceptional.

The hub around which the story spins is the irascible George, played by the excellent Nick Wilton. George needs to be in control all the time. The play opens at a family Christmas get together with everyone, except Granddad, playing a nice friendly game of cards. Well as friendly as it can be when George is involved.

Grandad, played with suitable dottiness by Brian Hands, just sits in his armchair dozing, delivering occasional acid comments and, much to everyone else’s discomfort, losing control of his malodorous bodily functions.

I should mention Anita Graham, a truly excellent actress, who plays the innocent family matriarch, Beatrice. She is the anchor in the maelstrom caused by George and by fate. Beatrice is the voice of reason.

Then there is the creepy “Vet” played by Christien Anholt, star of many big movies and theatre productions. He was genuinely scary in his ghoulish ordinariness. More Harold Shipman than Florence Nightingale.

The Tabard Theatre is really nice. They are attempting to raise enough money to upgrade the premises with, among other things, better seating (very welcome) and air conditioning. The theatre is only a half minute walk from Turnham Green station and would provide an excellent venue for a theatrical night out. Go and show your support for this brilliant London facility.

Reviewed by Graham Archer