Act One Theatre Company, Cardiff University's Drama Society, presents Heart of a Dog by Mikhail Bulgakov.
Directed by Aleks Ford the story tells the tale of Sharik, a stray mongrel, starved, and on the verge of death when he finds himself being rescued by the world-famous rejuvenation therapist Professor Philip Philipovich. Sharik comes to find that life is good as a gentleman’s dog, but the professor has other plans then a life of luxury for Sharik when he implants a human male pituitary gland into the dog.
The physical performance and transformation of Sharik, played by the wonderful Greg James Davies was incredible! I was already a big fan of this actor's work having had the pleasure to work with him in the Wonderful World of Dissocia in 2011, where I was impressed by his multiroling abilities and the humour in his characterisations. My admiration for this actor's talent and physical abilities has reached a new level after this production! I found myself laughing out loud at a number of outstanding moments that were created between himself and the actors Alex Mann and Olly Canning. Anyone who has seen the production will relate to the "Aww fuck" moment where Sharik is denied dinner before his operation. I imagine director Aleks Ford was chuffed the day these three rocked up to audition for him! The ability of Greg to make us love him/ pity him/ laugh at him as the dog and then hate the very sight of him after his transformation is admirable!
Heart of a Dog was written by Mikhail Bulgakov in the wake of the Russian civil war. An allegorical tale about the dangers of social engineering. Although the text was a little heavy and rushed at times, Alex Mann tackled the monologue describing the experiment and transformation of Sharik with the ease of a professional and he is very engaging! Another one to watch out for! I realise as I am writing this that I have had the pleasure of working with all three of these lead men and that I would welcome an opportunity to work with, or direct, them again!
I first saw Olly Canning perform the sidekick to the evil Professor Fate in a stage adaptation of the film The Great Race. I was glad to see Olly in a less charicture role, and his internal struggle with the morals of his experiment on Sharik were evident throughout. A fantastic performance, even though his speech was sometimes lost due to speed.
I am glad that no Russian accents were attempted, however, the ensemble member with the Irish accent stood out like a sore thumb pronouncing the Russian names, which was unfortunate as she was otherwise very believable.
The production benefitted from great costumes and authentic set pieces- I especially enjoyed the grandfather clock and dining table! The waiting room, dining room, office etc were all present on the stage the entire production with actors adhering to the imagined hallways between them. Although I appreciate why this was performed in this manner it at times became distracting to the action. I would overall rate the production highly, although this may be due to the strength of performances by Greg Davies, Alex Mann and Olly Canning!
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