Gundog is written by Simon Longman and directed by Royal Court Artistic Director Vicky Featherstone. Longman makes his debut at the Royal Court after taking part in the Royal Court Theatre’s Young Writer’s Programme in 2013. Gundog is part of the Royal Court’s Jerwood New Playwrights programme.
Vicky Featherstone describes the play as, “a bleak and brutal reminder of the poverty and struggle for survival in rural England which we rarely see portrayed. It is a desperate portrait of forgotten people who were once the life blood of the country.”
On a farm in the middle of nowhere, sisters Becky and Anna try to hold their family together after the death of their mother. When they discover a stranger wandering aimlessly across their land, they invite him to stay and the three establish an unlikely friendship in their determination to survive. ”We’ll be alright. Like you said. Some lambs. Some life.”
The set is an earthy field, the soundscape flits between deafening storms and overwhelming silence. A lump of meat and wool represents the sheep that keep the farm alive. Characters appear from behind the audience, often unnoticed until they speak. Rochenda Sandall and Ria Zmitrowicz play Becky and Anna, keeping the farm running while the men around them seem helpless in comparison.
The relationship between the sisters is well presented but the male characters didn’t feel as well crafted. The play dwells a lot on the passage of time and the repetition of the farming year which by the end of the hour and 40 minutes begins to drag.
Reviewed by Rhiannon Evans