A Dog Called Redemption

Matthew Landers
Re:Play Festival
Library Theatre, Manchester
(2009)

Publicity photo

After winning the MEN Award for Best New Play for its run in the 24:7 Theatre Festival, Matthew Landers once again appears in his own play A Dog Called Redemption in the Re:Play Festival at the Library Theatre.

Landers and Graham Elwell are two tramps — just in case you don't get the parallel, there is a cheeky little direct quote from Godot in the middle of the play — who meet on the streets and form a close but shaky friendship. Landers is Man 1, the younger of the two who suffers from cramps due to withdrawal but tries to dismiss his troubles with a well-placed, witty put-down. Elwell is Man 2, who has suffered various mental health problems, been thrown out and institutionalised by his mother and has run away from his flat and his medication. The relationship develops between the two men over a number of extended scenes on the streets and then in a disused chip shop linked together with Bob Dylan music.

Godot has influenced early plays from quite a few playwrights, and like Stoppard's Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead and Pinter's The Dumb Waiter and Godot itself, this play is principally about passing time. The danger is, of course, that unless such a play is exceptionally well-written and well-produced, watching people passing time can quickly get rather dull.

This play did stand out at the 24:7 Theatre Festival as having a more polished script and production than most of the other entrants, but transferring it to an established theatre like the Library does help to emphasise its flaws. There are a great many fascinating, funny and tender moments in this play, but on the other hand there are parts that feel like padding or ideas that the writer couldn't bear to let go even though, to an objective eye, they do not really fit or hold up the action: the "Nothing to be done" Godot quote is stylistically different from the rest of the play; the story about a misunderstanding of the term 'blow job' is quite an old gag and seems crowbarred in; the very last scene feels tacked on when the story is really over, perhaps partly because there is such a long blackout before it to set up such a short scene.

Having said that, although there are times when the attention may wander, there is also plenty in this play to make it well worth watching, and to make Matthew Landers worth keeping an eye on as a playwright to see what he comes up with in the future.

David reviewed this play at the 2008 24:7 Festival

Reviewer: David Chadderton