Dr Roz is a popular radio psychologist and her husband, Leo, has just become a bestselling crime writer. Leo, however, is hiding a dark secret about his past. Will the ‘sleeping dogs’ cause chaos for Dr Roz’s family?
Sleeping Dogs is described as “a new comedy, drama, sometimes hilariously funny, sometimes very moving”. Unfortunately in this dated and rather adolescent piece, I failed to be moved at all.
With the audience on three sides and a small playing space, every facet of the play and actors’ performances is greatly magnified. The simple design of the set, focused on the back wall of the stage, uses lit boxes to determine the setting of the scene. This very interesting idea doesn’t at all impede on the stage area and creates a good idea of the setting without utilising much else. The actors are also used to create a change of scene by moving chairs, stools and other props. This, however, continually pulled me out of the action happening on stage as it was not done in character. To have a quick run around and then see the actors sit calmly and try to compose themselves was, frankly, odd and distracting.
The repetitive and basic direction did not help the uninspiring script. When not focused on the audience sat directly in front of the stage, the staging was continually set on diagonals. Whilst understanding that the sight lines are difficult in this space, I really was hoping for something more interesting and creative to be used to cover the idea for a diagonal setting but this never happened.
Altogether the performances were under-energised, seemingly over-rehearsed and under-played. Venues such as the Barons Court play well to truly intimate and emotive performances, however they also highlight the flaws and weaknesses of less sturdy productions and casts. The latter is unfortunately true here.
My main surprise was the lifeless script where nothing much seemed to happen. Sleeping Dogs seems to have the characters telling us what has happened/is happening and never pulls us in to the world of the characters. Brenda Gottsche’s characters needed much more development as they came across as two-dimensional with few individual traits and a distinct lack of history.
Sleeping Dogs highlights the need to workshop new pieces before presenting them to the public. I would be surprised, however, if this play would have made it past that stage.
Sleeping Dogs is playing at Barons Court Theatre until 18 February.