Dream of the Dog, Finborough Theatre, London
Reviewed by Michael Coveney
Wednesday 05 May 2010
Dream of the Dog by South African playwright and novelist Colin Higginson is a post-apartheid drama highlighting the fate of white farmers in a changing landscape, produced with care and flair, and performed with real passion, not least by Janet Suzman, no less, in the leading role.
Suzman is a great actress, but there's no pulling of rank in her performance, and no wallowing, even though she is playing the distraught owner of the farm she inherited in the KwaZulu-Natal and is selling up to the development agency. Her husband was the manager, but he's sliding into senility, talking about dead children and stabbing apples with intent.
Suzman's Patricia Wiley, handsome and well-preserved, but starting to creak, is surrounded by packing cases. After a lifetime of mixed blessings, she's heading back to the sea, to where she was born, and lets slip that, like Mary Tyrone in Long Day's Journey into Night, she was happy here for a while... but she lost a child, and the marriage has been dead for years.
The clever thing about this short, 80-minute piece – one of the most perfect one-act plays I've seen in ages – is that Patricia's tragedy is filtered through an ambiguous scenario of political change and retribution.
As husband Richard flails around outside – and Bernard Kay makes this character genuinely frightening and disturbing – Patricia is visited by an agency representative who happens to have been one of the young black farmhands she helped on his way through boarding school.
The impression of Katie McAleese's carefully pitched production is one of presenting a transitional situation where only a good result is thinkable even if there are bumps and flaws all over the place on the way. And that sounds real enough to me.
To 22 May ( Finboroughtheatre.co.uk; 0844 847 1652)
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