Cold, Comfortless Farm: Gundog At Royal Court Jerwood Theatre Upstairs

Gundog, Royal Court Jerwood Theatre Upstairs ★★☆☆☆

By Johnny Fox Last edited 6 months ago

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Cold, Comfortless Farm: Gundog At Royal Court Jerwood Theatre Upstairs Gundog, Royal Court Jerwood Theatre Upstairs 2
Photo: Manuel Harlan

We’re on a windswept moorland in Chloe Lamford’s dirt-shovelled set for Gundog and start well with two excellent actors — Ria Zmitrowicz who was movingly one of the Rochdale grooming victims in the BBC drama, and Alec Secareanu the Romanian itinerant worker in the terrific Brit film God’s Own Country. He’s cowering from her shotgun, she’s bantering like Lauren from a Catherine Tate sketch, but there’s real dramatic tension.

Photo: Manuel Harlan

Then author Simon Longman loses his way: trying to portray the isolation and desperation of a bereaved family scraping a living from a small herd of sickly sheep, detached from the world — although a moody brother appears to have a constant phone signal — he seems trying to touch the seam of magical realism as though this were an Irish drama.  

Photo: Manuel Harlan

It’s worthy to try to combine elements of poverty, migration, feminism, dysfunction and dementia but neither Longman’s tedious time-skipping script nor Vicky Featherstone’s static direction relieve the infectious boredom. As the rambling grandfather, Alan Williams has a good speech about recognising he’s losing his mind and delivers it well, but by that time you’ve one eye on the stage and the other on the door.

Cold, comfortless farm.

Gundog, Royal Court Jerwood Theatre Upstairs, Sloane Square, SW1.  Tickets £12-25 until 10 March 2018.

Last Updated 12 February 2018