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Review: Dogged at Griffin Theatre Company

Review By Rosie Niven

On a cold, dark night, on Gunaikurnai country, a hunter finds herself lost in the wilderness after hunting for dingoes. But what happens when the dingo finds her? In association with Force Majeure, Griffin Theatre Company presents Andrea James and Catherine Ryan’s Dogged, an Australian Gothic about grief, loss, and taking what does not belong to you.

Director Declan Greene has assembled a powerhouse cast in Sandy Greenwood, Anthony Yangoyan and Blazey Best. The overlapping and fast-paced script requires dynamic performers and these three shine together on stage. Greenwood delivered a harrowing performance as the Dingo in search of her lost babies, constantly running from the hunters. Her stage presence was commanding and her portrayal of grief and loss was completely gut-wrenching. I can still hear her screams echoing throughout the theatre. Yangoyan’s Dog brought levity and variety in his physical performance, communicating not only the humorous nature of man’s best friend but also the dehumanising submission. His transformation into something much scarier and violent demanded a lot from him as a performer and he carried that transition smoothly and successfully. Best shone in her portrayal of the Hunter, capturing the callous yet charming nature of country Australia. Despite claiming ignorance, the image of Australia that is emblematic of our national spirit is often overlooked as being upon a mass genocide that continues to this day.

Renée Mulder and Peter Waples-Crowe’s immersive set design is stunning, and completely transforms the Stables into a dark dingo’s den, deep in the unforgiving Australian bush. Props drop smoothly from the roof right into the path of the actors and fires erupt from the depths of the cave, filling the space with heavy smoke. Complemented by Verity Hampson and Steve Toulmin’s striking designs, it is a space that sucks you in and places you right in the centre of the action. Hampson’s lighting was creative in utilising the breadth of the space, creating a unique shape that extended past the Stables stage. Toulmin’s sound was tastefully integrated with noises from the performers themselves, and the directional sound, ambiance and music worked together harmoniously. The use of darkness and the sound within it is particularly powerful - as an audience, we’re forced to rely on our instincts to place the hunter and the hunted within the space, and it begins to feel like we’re being hunted ourselves.

Dogged is a confronting work, one that can be hard to come to terms with but simultaneously impossible to look away from. The nature of the Stables theatre often puts audience members in what can be quite uncomfortably close proximity to the performers, and as the three became more frenzied and visceral as the performance went on, it became hard for the audience to escape being directly confronted with the horrors of what was happening before them. While it may be hard to swallow, this is the history that plagues our country, and Dogged forces us to look at everything we’re trying to hide. Force Majeure’s presence in Dogged (led by Movement Director Kirk Page) is evident from start to finish, as we watch human bodies shift into animals, running and panting through the night. This is particularly confronting when we witness these animals commit acts of human violence, blurring the lines of the parable until the reality is unable to be hidden.

One of the most striking images is when Greenwood peels back layers of black and ashy soot to reveal a colourful and beautiful mural painted upon the back walls, filling the space with colour and cutting through the darkness. Although we have tried to diminish and destroy their culture, the power of the Indigenous spirit shines through. It is a devastating and beautiful image to end the show.

Dogged is a heartbreaking examination of colonisation, and the dark and violent past that many of us are too afraid to face. It will make you uncomfortable, it will make you scared, and it will stay with you long after you leave the theatre. If you can, make it to the theatre to see this one before it closes - this is a show that cries out to be seen, and I hope you answer its call.

Image Credit: Brett Boardman


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