Dog gone: The Dog Walker @JSTheatre

In a city of strangers, two struggling eccentrics come together in Paul Minx’s The Dog Walker. The only trouble is that they’re not particularly likeable and it’s a pretty unconvincing story. Nevertheless, the two performers throw everything at it. And with terrifically trashy production design, it makes this piece interesting, if ultimately unsatisfying. It’s currently playing at the Jermyn Street Theatre.

A tragicomedy of sorts, Keri (Victoria Yeates) doesn’t go out and awaits the arrival of a ghost. Her tiny New York flat is strewn with liquor bottles and dead plants. She shouts tirades at anyone from her window and seems to eke out a living by writing e-books. Her mother delivers casseroles, so she isn’t starving. But apart from that, she’s entirely alone. Except for her dog - an old Pekingese - that she hires a dog walker to take out from time to time. And so enters Herbert Doakes (Andrew Dennis), a devout Jamaican immigrant with an ethical streak who is holding down a few jobs in the service economy.

When it becomes clear that there are no dogs to be walked, the two strike up an unlikely relationship of two people lost in New York. But as the piece progresses, there's little to endear the audience to either of them. And as an exploration of the service economy or mental illness, it  doesn’t go anywhere. It also seems to defy its own logic. Why is Doakes fired after Keri sends a scathing letter about him to the dog walking company, given we’re told earlier that the company had flagged her as a problem customer?

Yeates and Dennis try to make sense of this piece and throw themselves into these characters, which makes it watchable. And Isabella Van Braeckel’s design of Kerri’s flat is full of intricate details you will find yourself studying them during this piece. Although if the story was more interesting, this wouldn’t be happening.

Directed by Harry Burton, The Dog Walker is at Jermyn Street Theatre until 7 March.

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Photos by Robert Workman

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