Ivan lives in Moscow. He's grown up now, has been to school, survived the fall of Communism. But he very nearly didn't. After hearing too many arguments between his mother and her alcoholic boyfriend about how they were supposed to feed him when there was no money, Ivan left home. He was just four years old.
Writer Hattie Naylor has based her play on the true story of Ivan Mishukov, who spent two years begging on the streets of Moscow in the company of a pack of dogs. Naylor takes us inside the mind of 'Ivan', lets him tell his own story, and Rad Kaim is pitch perfect as the boy, now older, but still retaining an innocence and naivety as he recounts what happened to him when he was small.
Crouched in a light box, perhaps the better to force the actor into hunched, feral positions, Ivan tells us about the people he meets on the street - the glue-sniffing bully children, the possible paedophile bum - and then the dogs. The trust, love, and happiness he gets from his dogs, when every human he has ever known has betrayed him, is heartbreaking. We had a sneaky peek round the audience and we weren't the only ones furiously blinking and surreptiously wiping our nose.
The play deliberately and unashamedly pushes emotional buttons, but we forgive it that (and what we think were some technical problems with the soundscapes) for the artlessness of Kaim's performance. Take tissues. Come out wanting a pet.
Ivan and the Dogs is on at the Soho Theatre, 21 Dean Street W1, until 6 November. Until 30th October, 7.30pm; 1st-6th November, 9pm; matinees, 3pm. Tickets £12.50-£20. For more information see the Soho Theatre website.