This near hour of a play is an absurdist and highly elaborate imagining of two dogs who can talk and are highly revered in their city of San Francisco in the mid 1800s. As a duo of great rat catchers, they earn the respect of the city and can come and go as they please. Only, here the dog equivalent of Sartre’s No Exit is in play. With a dusting of Of Mice and Men and a sprinkle of Waiting for Godot, Jack Harrison’s play is a witty and often dizzying encounter, like being loved by two frantic dogs who just wont let up.
Bummer is the older dog and has to explain in great details the ways of the world to Lazarus and how the language we use defines all things and also contradicts them. Lazarus is not the best pupil and will often of off into other questions, leading to more frustration for the two of them. Bummer puts up with the younger dog, finding himself becoming desperate as the two of them realise they are trapped in a house (maybe?). They soon become anxious and consider extreme measures just to survive. But can they ever break free?
The two wonderful duo work magic with the script. As Lazarus, Jack Harrison was manic, giddy even, in the river of never ending questions and contradictions on the names of things. A great send elf comic timing, along with a trident physicality make Jack one to look out for. With no programme and through social media scrolls, I still can’t find out who played Bummer (an apt word here), though he did bring a well mannered and sometimes highly frustrated take on the part. The two pristine actors with slightly grown hair, bring this imagery of these dogs into question. Perhaps the piece could benefit with the extra dimension of puppetry, perhaps?
This fantastic fringe show should certainly be a treat for dog and theatre lovers this summer.
Bummer and Lazarus is at Aj’s Coffee House till 5th June 2018, then on tour to Barnstable and Edinburgh.
This review has been kindly supported by the Wales Critic fund.
Poster Credit: Big Egg Theatr