For the uninitiated, The Good Room’s productions can be difficult to define. The celebrated, independent company founded by Daniel Evans and Amy Ingram creates unique theatre experiences, often from community, crowd-sourced content. Continuing on from its previous Brisbane Festival successes, Let’s be Friends Furever follows a familiar format to pull together a celebration and commemoration of all breeds of dogs. In other words, if you ever have or plan on owning a dog, this is a show for you.
The work, which has been developed in partnership with fellow Queensland independent theatre makers, The Little Red Company, features faces from social media and a video appearance from Australian writer and presenter Marieke Hardy. There are everyday stories of everyday people and their extraordinary pets, as every pet dog is extraordinary to somebody.
What hooks you is the reality of it all. After an introduction to retired special ops attack dog Guge, retired Special Forces commando Steve shares the story of how he built a bond worthy of gaining Guge’s respect. As Afghan show dog Ava takes the stage with owner Jan, who tells us all about the unique breed, a Great Dane puppy Rollo rocks in with his owners Siobhan and Pete. I found the production transformational, leading me from not really being an animal person to a mid show declaration that “I love them all!”
The heartfelt homage to our four-legged friends is about transformation, too, as owners discuss how their lives have changed for the better through their dog ownership, even sometimes in retrospect. After discussion with vet Matt about the multi-faceted nature of his job, later scenes respectfully take us to the raw emotion of having to farewell a furever friend.
Let’s Be Friends Furever’s live sections are often joyous, like when 11-year-old Henry makes his theatrical debut to deliver a song about his “not that bright” (and, apparently, eager-to-escape) best friend, Cocker Spaniel Roscoe. Also, when we meet the tenacious, tongue-out, fussy Austin Terrier social media sensation Mr Peanut and his owner Sam. And then there is the high-flying Frisbee hijinks of Blitz and Zoe. As light-hearted and fun as things are initially, it’s certainly not all PG-13 rated.
Punctuating the live guest segments are videos (video production by Optikal Bloc) about dogs and from the company’s hundreds of hours of interviews across Australia. Segments on love, loyalty and laughter are from dog walkers, obedience trainers and dog owners. They discuss dog parenting styles, the origins of their pets’ names, the fortunes they have spent on spoiling their greatest loves and their funniest experiences. Under Daniel Evans’ direction, all is seamlessly woven together to maintain momentum and audience engagement.
Mike Willmett’s dynamic sound design beds things down and the ringmaster of sorts, Hugh Parker, keeps segments moving. His comic commentary and questioning allow emphasis on a common theme of resilience in discussing what people’s dogs have taught them about themselves and their purpose in life.
The Good Room’s Let’s Be Friends Furever is a real treat. Its ambitious examination of people’s relationships with their faithful companions and is fascinating and life-affirming. It represents the perfect work with which to introduce someone to the world of what theatre can be.
It is playing at Powerhouse Theatre until 25th September.
For more of Meredith Walker’s theatre reviews, check out Blue Curtains Brisbane.