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Four Dogs and a Bone (Q44 Theatre) – theatre review

Lies, bravado and one-upmanship are explored in the satire Four Dogs and a Bone. The “bone” is a Hollywood film and the “dogs” baring their teeth are the producer, an ageing starlet, a newbie actor and the writer. Each wants things on their terms.

Photo: Michael Teo

The producer, Bradley (Kostas Ilias), throws his weight around. He needs more money for the struggling production. So he tries to extract it using the ingenue, Brenda (Xanthe Gunner), to get to her famous stepbrother. Bradley strokes Brenda’s ego; and she, in turn, talks up her “star” connections. The real star, Collette (Tania Knight), tries to play the femme fatale; while the writer, Victor (William Atkinson), is fighting a losing battle to protect the integrity of his work. As the saying goes, it’s a jungle out there.

Four Dogs and a Bone was based on writer John Patrick Shanley’s early experience in Hollywood. He wrote it in the early ‘90s. Told in four two-person scenes, I felt it started out with punch (with an incendiary first act) but lost momentum as it progressed. While early on I was involved and excited, in the end I didn’t care enough about the outcome. That is particularly disappointing because while I am a theatre reviewer, I am also a cinema critic, so films and filmmaking is my bread and butter.

Putting aside a few word stumbles, the actors do a decent enough job (the standout for me was the producer role), so I suppose my criticism is primarily directed at the writing, which was thin. It didn’t have enough substance, although given the subject it should have. It also feels dated. More than 20 years on – in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein revelations – it’s not shocking enough to be impactful.

Photo: Michael Teo

Four Dogs and a Bone had the potential to be memorable, but in the end it fell short of the mark. The power in the prose subsided and the supposedly revelatory nature of the material wasn’t all that revelatory. Directed by Gabriella Rose-Carter, the Q44 Theatre production is on at Abbotsford Convent, Melbourne until 26 May 2019.

Alex First

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