Dog Rose barks up the right tree

She’s a sassy young one. Bit of a bitch actually. To her mom at least, not her dad. But we discover she has her reasons. Her friends we don’t meet.

The mom: She’s great. Gives as good as she gets. A loaded gun, but wonderfully playful. Which is the great thing about this play: its playfulness even as the storyline covers emotionally laden themes (mother-daughter relationship, autism). Difficult to convincingly carry these characters’ burdens yet Anthea Thompson manages the mother with a prowess that absorbs us in the monologues, wets our cheeks and makes us laugh with recognition and with sympathy in the duologues.

Sophie Joans as the daughter Nina almost equally so. Less convincing in the monologues but her physical comedy, movement and timing well compensate for the assymmetry of her co-star’s experience.

It’s almost a play-by-numbers but then aren’t they all, or nearly all, in various ways, especially when they work? And Dog Rose is so well-scripted by Joans, it is a gem of independent poor theatre; the epics can become a bit tiresome in their desire to overwhelm.

The play is tightly directed by Jemma Kahn. It entertains without being superficial, providing substance rather than show. What show there was – the Superman scene – was delightful.

The set, too, designed by Cameron Moodie , dispenses with uneccesary deceptions yet is able to seamlessly morph into different scenes, although making use of lighting in the denouement, rather than what was always going to be in danger of being a clumsy manipulation of the blooming roses, might be less distracting.

Dog Rose is a well-scripted, well-directed, excellently acted play that deserved the accolades it attained at last year’s National Arts Festival. It merits full houses when it returns to festival next month, but if you’re not making the pilgrimage to Makhanda, you can see it at the Baxter’s Golden Arrow Studio until 1 June.

Dog Rose will play at the National Arts Festival from 26 to 29 June. Book here for the Baxter Theatre shows, or here, to see it at the NAF.

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