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Edinburgh Fringe 2009

My Life with the Dogs

New International Encounter

Venue: Pleasance Courtyard Two


Low Down

This lucidly comic play uses all manner of on-stage effects to portray the story of four year old Ivan, who wanders from his tower block flat on the edge of Moscow into the city where he encounters the pack of dogs that become his friends. With only a very simple story to speak of, this is more of a crazed ride through Eastern European style theatre. 


In Brechtian style, everything is done on stage. The actors ddress the audience directly and at the start ask us to imagine: We are not here in Edinburgh in 2009 but in Moscow in 1995, in a tiny apartment in a huge tower block. Inside the flat, innocent Ivan lives with his alcoholic mother. His uncle likes to come over and drink and ‘make noises in the kitchen’. His uncle give the beaming Ivan presents and he likes to watch the television. Around this scenario, the other actors play numerous characters and objects like the television: Putting the empty TV on his head, one plays the different channels. They interrupt with instruments and a megaphone and pester Ivan’s mother like naughty angels. He laughs and tells us his story. He tells us how he leaves the flat and wanders to a park where he innocently meets a man who buys him a hotdog and turns out to be a sexual predator. This is when he meets his saviours, the dogs, and they play catch and doze together. Then a policeman comes and takes him to an orphanage.

All the actors are very expressive and work well as an ensemble, frequently coming out and commenting on things. Because of the energy of the actors and the inventive way they perform, the actual storytelling of Ivan is harder to focus on. As he is playing a child, it is as if he his telling his story to other children, which contrasts with the style of the action. Perhaps if all the actors told the story in their style it would be more engaging.
Lighting plays a large part as on stage lamps are maneuvered to create place with beautifully concentrated light. A large overhanging light is also used, at one point orange light pours down to connote a street lamp. Another lovely moment comes when Ivan imagines a fridge. We accept the presence of these lights and they blend in with the action. One wonders why more plays don’t use lighting in this way.
However, when the ending comes we are left wanting more, and isn’t established clearly enough. The strengths are in the ensemble performing and dramatic effects rather than the story. Perhaps a more interesting story would have made it more memorable. As it is, this company are excellent at the what they do and should be seen for that.


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