Dead Dad Dog

John McKay
Old School and Stories Untold Productions in association with Neil McPherson for Finborough Theatre
Finborough Theatre

Listing details and ticket info...

Angus Miller as Ek Credit: Lida Crisafulli
Liam Brennan as Willie Credit: Lida Crisafulli
Liam Brennan as Willie and Angus Miller as Ek Credit: Lida Crisafulli
Liam Brennan as Willie and Angus Miller as Ek Credit: Lida Crisafulli

This two-hander was John McKay’s first produced play, premièred at the Traverse in 1988 with a transfer to the Royal Court. Director Liz Carruthers now gives it a simple thrust staging with a single chair and a screen plastered with images of Margaret Thatcher and posters for The Smiths to remind us it takes place in 1985, the year of Live Aid.

Angus Miller plays Ek, a 24-year-old Edinburgh hopeful who is up for an interview with BBC Scotland to whom he plans to pitch a project. He is in the middle of getting his breakfast when his father walks in demanding a cup of tea. That might not seem surprising except that he hasn’t seen him for twelve years, for that is how long ago since his dad died.

This comic ghost story centres on the difficulty of being your own man when your father, however well-meaningly, insists on interfering with paternal guidance.

Dad Willie (Liam Brennan) presents an extreme form of the older generation not keeping up with a world that is changing. He died when Ek was twelve; he hasn’t a clue whom Margaret Thatcher is although she has been PM for six years, can’t comprehend meat-free veganism, his attitudes and expectations are as out of date as his dress sense.

It wouldn’t be so bad if dad only appeared to Ek, but he’s a manifestation that everyone can see, he accompanies Ek everywhere and he doesn’t keep his mouth shut. Ek can’t escape him; move too far away and he gets a painful electric shock. How can Ek explain his presence?

In a series of short scenes, each given a projected title, they travel into town, attend the BBC interview, go shopping, go for a drink and join Ek's friends; Willie is there when Ek takes a bath, he even interrupts Ek making love with his girlfriend. It is rather predictable and once very topical comment now seems less pointedly comic.

There are no props, everything gets mimed, and that single chair has to be multifunctional, even becoming a bathtub. This might have made things funnier but sadly misfires, the miming needs to be more clear-cut than what Angus Miller offers, but he bravely faces the formidable challenge of presenting undressing, bathing, cooking and handling multiple nonexistent props at the same time, plus establishing locations of unseen people is a formidable challenge. Precision will no doubt build as the play runs.

Miller makes the most of Ek’s insecurities and the struggle to handle his situation and gets the audience on his side, but Liam Brennan’s Willie is bursting with confidence—Ek doesn’t stand a chance against such a dad.

This production of Dead Dad Dog was intended to be half of a double bill paired with Sonny Boy, a new play that would provide a sort of counterpoint. Perhaps, given that context, it would appear much stronger, but sadly cast illness made it impossible to present Sonny Boy in this run.

Reviewer: Howard Loxton

*Some links, including Amazon,,, ATG Tickets, LOVEtheatre, BTG Tickets, Ticketmaster, LW Theatres and QuayTickets, are affiliate links for which BTG may earn a small fee at no extra cost to the purchaser.

Are you sure?