Alan, We Think You Should Get a Dog

Devised family drama is more of a dog's dinner

★★
theatre review | Read in About 2 minutes
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Alan, We Think You Should Get a Dog
Published 11 Aug 2017

It’s Alan’s 70th birthday. His kids and their partners have prepared a party – but Alan refuses to come downstairs.

Alan will never actually appear in this slight piece about a family divided. At first it seems he might be depressed, before it becomes clear he’s seriously ill. The daughter Daisy and her boyfriend move back home to care for him; her brother Olly, however, is a banker—boo, hiss!—and so is too callous to come round much. We don’t, however, get enough sense of their childhoods to really understand why the family is riven; there’s not much character detail here.

There are bright, breezy performances from a young, emerging company called Mad Like Roar—they do a particularly nice line in British awkwardness, whether that’s trying to paper over conflict or shyly trying to pull—but the play is not up to much, really. It’s no surprise it’s devised: the dialogue often feels directionless and baggy, and there are a lot of scenes that are little more than young people being exasperated and squabbling in circles, rather than really going anywhere.

Slightly more stylised moments hint at greater potential – especially Rachel Hosker’s detailed, repetitive monologues, first while trying to get a job and then as Alan’s carer, when small-talk pares down until it’s a wailing siren of "morning, morning, morning" that evokes the endgame of long-term illness. But other plot-strands are left dangling before a gear-shift dramatic denouement that feels pretty unearned.