Review by Emily Smith
Overwhelming numbers of dogs appearing out of nowhere, is it a nightmare or my happiest daydream come true?
Runaway Balloon say they want to produce the kind of plays that pop into your head unexpectedly a week later. Unfortunately, they’ve failed on that front because their latest show has been chasing its own tail in my mind since opening night and it doesn’t plan on leaving.
Woof is composed of four short plays written by four different writers, all given the same prompt of a sudden, unexplained influx of dogs. Each play is unique but they come together as a cohesive whole. They share a similar sense of humour which is conversational rather than punchline-y, the jokes are somehow both exactly what you would expect to hear anyone say and also the wittiest line you’ve heard all year. I was laughing from start to finish along with the rest of the packed-out audience.
In the first play, ‘Walter,’ Libby tries to find the titular dog she is supposed to be dog-sitting along with the help of her one night stand who feels guilty for letting the dog escape in the first place. While they search for the poor pooch the story is more about finding connection with each other, navigating hangovers, Maccas runs, and the horrors of the lads’ group chat to see if Walter can bring them together for more than one night. Anna Harris and Alex Hutchings are delightful in their awkward flirting, and writer Megan Rundle has proven herself the queen of dialogue.
Up next, ‘Commitment Team’ changes up the structure with three friends talking directly to the audience about their ingenious method of attracting hookups on wild weekends: claiming to be on their last night out before being deported. If my friends did this I would be checking in on their sanity but, quite wholesomely, the trio’s biggest problem is catching feelings for each other. While the entirely dog-less plot is incongruous with the rest of the show and can be tricky to keep up with, the pathetically lovesick Mark comes through with his puppy dog eyes, and his adorable attempts to backtrack on his upcoming deportation had us laughing through the cringe.
Anna Harris flaunts her range by coming back in ‘Hit’ as a friendly assassin bemused to find herself held at gunpoint by her mark: a flustered doomsday prepper with a talent for making chains of paper people. Even a thousand monkeys typing infinitely on a thousand typewriters couldn’t have come up with that. Every single line in this one got a laugh, including my favourite joke in the whole show, which I won’t spoil but it involves an actual bag of Schmackos dog treats, look out for it.
Finally, ‘Dogterrain’ takes place in that classic theatre set, an electronic public toilet, where a clown and a teenager with a cricket bat shelter from the pack of wild dogs outside. There’s another sentence I did not see coming this week. Their rapid-fire conversation ranges from the daily grind of clowning to another ripper line that still has me in stitches: “I’d love to see Bear Grylls sipping on a moon cup.” And honestly, that’s not a spoiler because even knowing it’s coming doesn’t prepare you for Rachel Chamberlain’s unperturbed delivery and Rebecca Collin’s manic energy. I’ve never seen so much chemistry in a toilet.
Of course, the real question anyone reading a review of a show about a dogpocalypse wants answered is: are there any real dogs in it? It pains me to tell you: no, there are no real dogs in it. What pains me even more is to say that I don’t even mind, because the Runaway Balloon team have somehow made up for the lack of four-legged actors with a brilliant show. The stories are poignant, bizarre, and ludicrously funny, and the small scenes between the plays where Ben Nixon and Mikey Isitt give their best insights into canine conversations are so enjoyable if I had a tail, its wagging would cause a commotion in the theatre.
Woof is showing at Subiaco Arts Centre until the 15th October.