Review By Regan Baker
Asking if I want to review a show with dogs in it is like asking those same dogs if they want a ball, or a peanut butter treat. The answer is emphatically, “YES”, and I can’t believe it was even a question to begin with. As part of the ongoing Brisbane Festival, the Powerhouse Theatre has this week been transformed into a dog park and welcomed our four-legged friends (and their humans) from across Brisbane to tell their stories. From family pets, to medical assistance animals, to dogfluencers and former combat veterans, this was an hour and a half of awe, tears, love and despair.
Brought to the stage by Queensland’s very own The Good Room, ‘Let’s Be Friend’s Furever’ is a contemporary theatre masterpiece that combines live storytelling with documentary footage of trainers, owners, vets and walkers interlaced. It was such an easy show to enjoy as there was no agenda, no underlying theme or any preachy messaging, just a celebration of our canine best friends and how special they make our lives.
The evening opened strong with former special forces commando, Steve, and his retired k9, Guge, taking to the stage to regale on their history in the military as well as their lives beyond service. It’s hard to tell whether the audience were more taken aback by the beautiful Belgian Malinois, or his finely ripped human, but either way - their story was captivating. Steve spoke of his military training and the months of hard work and sacrifice it took to form the inseparable bond that exists to this day between himself and his best friend.
Moving from strength to strength, we were shortly introduced to a vast variety of beautiful breeds, all with their own unique tales (pun intended) to share. There was fan-favourite, and Instagram famous Boston Terrier, Mr Peanut, whose owner, Sean, told us of how he grew his beloved best friends Social Media influence to over 30,000 followers! And from enormously famous, to just plain enormous, we also had the roughly 80-kilogram Great Dane, Sir Rollo, come on stage and make everyone in the room jealous by sharing that he has his very own queen size bed in his very own bedroom! While I can’t single out all of the beautiful animals that were brought on stage it goes without saying that each and every one of them, even the naughty ones that peed on the stage (yes, I’m talking about you, Brett) were gorgeous!
For the most part, the show brought unadulterated joy to everyone in the audience who were delighted by the tales of other peoples’ four-legged friends and how their relationships have grown over the years. There was, however, an element of tragic reality that had to be addressed; the elephant in the room. Brisbane vet and local hunk, Matt, told stories from the ER. Some were funny and some were sad, but he was also tasked with the responsibility of talking about what happens when the end is nigh. I can’t speak personally on the tragedy of losing a pet as I have never had to experience it myself, but the utter silence from the theatre said enough. Matt’s storytelling, as well as the documentary interviews that followed regarding the tragedy of having to put a friend to sleep was deeply and emotionally moving. The stories were all familiar, and shared by many. The feeling of being lost when they’re gone, or of hearing the ghostly pitter-patter of footsteps around the house where the used to run around. The creative team of Daniel Evans and Amy Ingram did an outstanding job of balancing the joy, with the heartbreak, the ups and the downs, to give the audience a true experience of what it is like to have a beloved companion.
As a whole the show was thoroughly enjoyable and to be nit-picky for just a moment my only point of contention was that it was possibly a fraction long. While the interview footage was edited together brilliantly by video designer, Craig Wilkinson, whose work in Boy Swallows Universe I had the privilege of seeing earlier this week, some of the video scenes seemed to drag on. The storytelling element is important, don’t get me wrong, but when the interconnecting videos went for longer than the individual performances things felt a little imbalanced, at times.
If I didn’t already want a pet puppy before seeing this show, I certainly do now. A unique theatre experience unlike anything I have seen before, ‘Let’s Be Friend’s Furever’ is a brilliant celebration of humans’ best friend and the immense joy, love and companionship they bring into our lives.