BTR - Reviews of Dog Sees God: Confessions of a Teenage Blockhead

Dog Sees God: Confessions of a Teenage Blockhead

Wed 7th – Sat 10th August 2013

reviews

Jazz Adamson

at 09:55 on 11th Aug 2013

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Imagine the Peanuts Gang – that American comic strip featuring Snoopy, Charlie Brown et al. Now imagine they’ve ‘grown up’ into American high school clichés and like to do things like get stoned and talk about sex. This production is light entertainment; it does not do or say anything new or provocative, but what it does is fun and absorbing. Dog Sees God is traditional, with a cast performing a story with a beginning, middle and end (rare at the Fringe), so you can sit back and let the narrative seduce you.

Each character can be summed up by a label, which serves well the point they’re making: that ‘teenage’ identities are transient and tractable, bestowed on you by peers and taken away by them the next day. That if you wish, you can try to forge your own identity, but there’s little chance of acceptance. These kids aren’t alright. One’s a stoner, another an angry, sex-obsessed homophobe (think Stiffler from the American Pies), and of course two vacuous, screeching girls. There’s even an incarcerated pyromaniac.

These are played by adults, so we are presented with a comic strip situation, where the characters are young children, but are being played by adults imagining them as teens - the potential for a car crash was huge, but actually the characterisation was strong and each character had the empathy of the audience. The characters were captivating at points, especially Cliff Blake (as CB) who managed to convey both sensitivity and nobility, and Steve Hynes as Matt the Stoner was bang on the mark and whose rant against 'Mexican pizza' got many laughs.

Certain scenes were awkward; if you were a 14/15 year old, no doubt you’d find the scene of a ‘teenage party’ an embarrassing spectacle. The ending was unnecessarily drawn out and uncomfortably trite. However, this is easily overlooked since (as in a soap opera or high school film) your main concern is with the characters and plot-line rather than, say, movement. It is predictably predictable – everyone knows the high school tropes, but this isn’t a problem if you accept the genre.

'Dog Sees God' is engrossing. It’s not innovative, but it touches the heart and makes you smile. It takes on huge topics, probably too much (internalised homophobia, suicide, psychosis) but they are thoughtfully dealt with and performed with panache.

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Helena Blackstone

at 11:03 on 11th Aug 2013

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Snoopy is dead. The Peanuts gang are all grown up. ‘Dog Sees God: Confessions of a Teenage Blockhead’ has cleverly adapted the personality traits of Charlie Brown and Co. into their teenage counterparts, while retaining the cartoon-like definition to their characters. Grown apart from each other in their interests and their sentiments, this is a fairly improbable group of friends, but the situations that ensue from this make for a simple, fun production, which served this cast well – despite the age difference between cast and characters.

Main character Charlie Brown, played by Cliff Blake, is very well cast. Charlie’s character is unusual in that he has been allowed to remain fairly intact from the original CB. Initially, he seems detached from the hormone-crazed antics and trivial teenage angst of the rest of the crew as he is going through an existential crisis over the death of his dog. Blake’s was one of the strongest performances, perfectly capturing Charlie Brown’s mix of nervous insecurity and quiet determination.

Beethoven was another star of the show, played by Mary Spinosa-Wilson. Slow, and fairly badly shaken, Beethoven has been bullied into an angry, dejected loner. Spinosa-Wilson has a very convincing fit, playing him with as much complexity as was possible for a fairly stereotyped part. Compliments should also go to Gina Ghioldi and Robin Wilson as Marcy and Tricia, for there entertainingly bitchy attitude and the high energy scenes between the two of them.

Meanwhile, Pig-Pen, played by Steve Hynes, has become a homophobic, germophobic jock. Hynes' performance was a little stilted, with a few odd pauses between his lines that needed to be tidied up. He was not the only one to be afflicted by a certain slowness which made for some slightly jarring moments, and I couldn’t help wondering if perhaps this was covering up a few cases of forgotten lines. Towards the end this caused the production to drag a little, but with a slightly faster pace it could have improved dramatically, and any rough edges would have been smoothed over.

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