Little Dogs – review

Patti Pavilion, Swansea

Dylan Thomas, whose short story Just Like Little Dogs inspired this collaboration between Frantic Assembly and National Theatre Wales, would like this show, you would imagine. Bold and spirited, dynamic and raw, it revels in the nocturnal rituals enacted on Swansea's streets and beach. It is as physical in its style as Thomas's writing is lyrical; both shaped by the city and with an unmissable connection to it.

It begins in an old-fashioned sitting room, with a troubled young man (Darren Evans) flicking a lighter ominously under the gaze of an older woman (Siân Phillips). They don't speak, and the atmosphere is one of tense foreboding until she silently comforts him. This rare still moment is suddenly ruptured as the sofa they're sitting on is ripped apart when the room splits in two, leading us out into the night. It's the first in a number of ingenious moments in Tim Dickel's design.

On the streets, it's all gangs and desperate coupling, with teenagers bragging their knowledge of the coarse rituals of attracting the opposite sex. In contrast to that first domestic scene, it's all about identifying with the crowd, being part of the group, and the sense of empowerment this brings is powerfully expressed in tightly choreographed scenes driven by insistent, visceral soundtrack from dance music trio Hybrid.

Scott Graham and Steven Hoggett direct the group scenes as be an assault on the senses, and there is much to enjoy in these. Quieter moments, back in that sitting room, or at a rain-soaked bus-stop, reveal the anxious, lonely reality beyond the displays of sexual bravado. Despite the hugely watchable Phillips appearing in these, and stealing the show in a jaw-dropping finale, there remains a nagging sense of disjunction between the two worlds, with the domestic realm somewhat underdeveloped.


Elisabeth Mahoney

The GuardianTramp

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