COMEDY / Talk on the wild side: Tristan Davies reviews Eric Bogosian's Dog Show at the Almeida

The sight of the solitary microphone stand was a bit of a let-down. Eric Bogosian has a couple of Obies to his name, a rave review from Frank Rich, the 'Butcher of Broadway', and he's written and starred in his own movie, the Oliver Stone-directed Talk Radio of 1988. He might at least have forked out on a decent set. Instead, it looked as though we were in for a night of standard-issue stand-up.

Live comedy is dominated by single white males who are all mouth and trousers and no stage-craft (if comedy really is the new rock 'n' roll, then it's a pity it seems to have adopted Bill Wyman as a role model). Bogosian, as it turns out, is one of the few who fill an empty stage to bursting point with little more than the sound of his own voice. His props are a repertoire of bodily tics, his quick-changes are from character to character, the sickos, winos, pushers and hustlers of his sets from Drinking in America to this, his latest, Dog Show.

This is due, in part, to the fact that Bogosian is a trained actor, but mainly it's because he's not really a comic in the conventional sense at all. Sure, he's funny, but the laughter he trades in is guilt-edged. A bitch about the rich subverts chaos theory to amusing effect: the streets have been fouled by the dogs who ate the cats who ate the fish who ate the puke of the guy on the yacht who overdid the steak tartare - but it is delivered by a beggar who scratches his bitter and twisted body in a monologue of such foul-mouthed ferocity that it would make David Mamet wince.

Bogosian has no interest in winning you over, being your friend, having a laugh. He follows his first searing monologue - a scene-setting, slow-time rap for his carnival of animals - with the customary 'It's great to be here' ice-breaker, but it is not the usual stuff of showbiz smarm. Exploiting the relief which greets his switch from sinister street poet to smiling host, he feeds out a line of rapprochement weighted with goofy psychobabble ('I like you looking at me, I want to get naked, let me show you all I can be'). Then he takes up the slack and strikes with a devastating mood-swing that reveals the stand-up as just another paranoid member of his cast of crazies ('This is my life up here. Who needs you?').

Bogosian is often compared to Lenny Bruce. This may be because he is an angry performer with a colourful vocabulary (his frequent use of the expression 'blow me' has nothing to do with a nostalgic affection for working-class characters in Ealing comedies), but also because he bears a slight resemblance to the legendary taboo-breaker. Truth is, Bogosian can look like anyone he wants to. He is a master of disguise, though he never changes out of his black jeans, boots and T-shirt. His ability to morph from one character to another is staggering. In his anonymous junkies, fixers and party animals there are shades of more recognisable ghosts. Hunched around the microphone, he is Antony Sher's Richard III; leaning upon a stick, he is Dustin Hoffman's Ratso in Midnight Cowboy; running off at the mouth with a nasal, amphetamine-charged whine, he is Dennis Hopper's photographer in Apocalypse Now.

Each act of madness and desperation portrayed by this gifted 'charactician' is dazzling in its own right, each a perfect medium for his thoughts on greed, deceit and self-delusion. But at the end of 90 minutes you feel as if you have sat in judgement on a series of brilliant audition pieces. That you'd give him the part is in no doubt, it's just that it would be in a dozen plays or films he's yet to complete.

Eric Bogosian's Dog Show continues at the Almeida, London N1 to Saturday. Box office: 071 359-4404

(Photographs omitted)

Arts and Entertainment

game of thrones reviewWarning: spoilers

Arts and Entertainment
The original Star Wars trio of Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill

George Osborne confirms Star Wars 8 will film at Pinewood Studios in time for 4 May


Arts and Entertainment
Haunted looks: Matthew Macfadyen and Timothy Spall star in ‘The Enfield Haunting’

North London meets The Exorcist in eerie suburban drama


Arts and Entertainment

Filming to begin on two new series due to be aired on Dave from next year


Arts and Entertainment
Kit Harington plays MI5 agent Will Holloway in Spooks: The Greater Good

'You can't count on anyone making it out alive'film
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

    Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

    Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

    Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
    China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

    China's influence on fashion

    At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
    Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

    The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

    Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
    Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

    Rainbow shades

    It's all bright on the night
    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
    Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

    The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

    A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
    'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

    Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

    Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

    The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
    Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

    Vince Cable exclusive interview

    Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
    Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

    Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

    Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
    Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

    It's time for my close-up

    Meet the man who films great whites for a living
    Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

    Homeless people keep mobile phones

    A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before