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Theatre Review Gundog with no sense of direction

MARK DEAN is left unmoved by a play on the bleakness of rural life

Gundog
Royal Court Theatre, London

FROM the moment the lights go up to reveal a set constructed almost entirely of mud, the word that springs to mind is bleak and that adjective pretty much sums up Simon Longman’s play, directed by Vicky Featherstone.

In it, two impoverished shepherds, sisters Becky and Anna (Ria Zmitrowicz and Rochenda Sandall), are eking out a living in a remote place when they come across Guy (Alec Secareanu), a young man from an unspecified country, on their land.

What his background is, or how he came to be there, is never satisfactorily explained but the sisters invite him to stay with them to help with the farm.

As the play progresses, the characters never come across as people that you can believe in and there is little in the way of narrative or plot development.

In the second part, we are taken back a few years to a time when the sisters are coping with their elderly grandfather who is slowly losing his mind and their brother, who wants to get away from the farm but who is as trapped in the place as they are.

The concluding section takes up to where the second part left off and the time shifts are somewhat confusing.

It doesn't help matters that much of the action, taking place offstage, is described by the characters and the sense is often of actors delivering lines rather than of people having genuine conversations.

Gundog occasionally come to life but it soon falls back into a worn routine. What might have been a fascinating examination of how people manage to live in such bleak circumstances turns out to be a missed opportunity.

Runs until March 10, box office: royacourttheatre.com

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