I have never been so excited to review a show as I am now! Gundog, by Simon Longman, is an intimate reflection of family dynamic executed ‘on a farm in the middle of nowhere’. Longman’s play follows a family, regardless of chronology, through the aftermath of loss of loved ones, the tensions of financial struggle and the welcoming of stranger.
Gundog has made me feel more human, guilty and equal than ever before having watched a reflection of mistakes that are totally relatable and shared the suffering of lost loved ones to a vulnerable sibling group. There was so much food for thought: the laziness/ addiction of the young brother to his ‘social life’ on his phone, his prejudice towards Guy who says of the sisters (Becky and Anna) “the whole time I’ve been here. You’re the only people to ever ask if I was ok” and the struggles with Mick whose “mind’s falling apart inside (his) head” leading to a huge knock on effect as the family tries to deal with their grandfather’s Alzheimer’s disease.
The beauty of Longman’s writing builds throughout the play but culminates with a heartbreaking monologue from Guy, who reminds us that “peace is stillness” and despite the capitalist nature of our culture, the real beauty and importance lies in the relationships we share and the time we spend together which is why I felt so changed from this production more than any I’ve seen before as Longman’s imagery really landed and resonated with me; after an emotional roller coaster ride Anna shares with us her dream to please her sister and brother would be “to reach up into the sky … and stop everything turning. Make time stop. Enough for you to be brave.” This strong theme of loss and regret running throughout the play really had an effect and really made me learn from these characters who have suffered from losing to time.
The performance space was ideal for Longman’s play, the 100-odd seats in the upstairs theatre at the Royal Court gave such an intimate platform for this incredibly powerful story. I have never been encapsulated so much within a fictional story which was beautifully executed by the totally believable cast: Alex Austin, Rochenda Sandall, Alec Secareanu, Alan Williams and Ria Zmitrowicz. The dynamic relationships between each family member made the story flow seamlessly and I got more and more lost in the family tensions created by the common struggles of every family.
The words I have to describe this show definitely do not do it justice – a show that challenges your behaviour towards family, friends and fellow countryman beyond belief.
Gundog is playing The Royal Court until 10th March 2018. For more information and tickets, see www.royalcourttheatre.com/whats-on/gundog.