Monday, May 19, 2014

Mad dogs

The unexpected can sometimes be an integral part of the familiar. An old friendship regained means alcohol-fuelled conversations filled with nostalgic reminiscences of shared times, whilst eagerly taking advantage of the missing years by retelling favourite stories to the only person in our social circles who hasn't heard them a thousand times before. But then the person we have become is not always the same as the person we were. What of this new friendship, this time one between an academic writer and a playwright, neither of whom we had known before? How would that work out? This surprise was put to the test last weekend.

I went to see two one-act plays performed under the title of Mad Dogs and an Englishman, written by my old school friend, Tim Elgood. There was a nagging anxiety the whole time. What if I didn't like them? Even worse, what if I didn't like them when I was sitting next to the very self-conscious author? What if I didn't like them when one of the main characters in the first play was a dog I knew thirty years ago whose portrait was painted by my aunt? Ah. The last bit should give you a clue. How could I not like anything quite so ... well ... idiosyncratic.

Tim writes comedies. Only serious topics make worthwhile comedy. The first play is about three dogs in a dog rescue centre. Like all anthropomorphic writing it is really concerned with the human condition; homelessness, despair, aggression, cynicism, survival, love, and the increasingly pressing need of middle aged males for a pee. There is care and respect for animals underneath too (Tim was always mad about animals and was the only friend I ever had at school who kept a plastic tub in his lean-to containing pet mud leeches). Except he makes you think about them - differently - subversively. Animal themes invite sentimentality and kitsch, not the perception and dark tenderness evoked here. There are jokes and they are funny, but it is the tenderness that makes you smile.

The second play, Bare Words, is a dialogue between one person. It is about the agony of writing and the role of seduction in art. All writers will identify with it instantly. Others will enjoy it too, even if they come out with a vague sense of horror about what really goes on in an author's mind.

Tim's writing is accessible, intelligent and witty. A word should also be put in for the excellent cast and production, but it was the writer that concerned me. And I feel rather proud to have such a new old friend.

Anyway, go and see them if you can. There is a YouTube taster below.

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