A new play by Annie Hulley, Dog Days, is a slight piece about a crumbling marriage after the death of a beloved son who went to Afghanistan and never came back, and a somewhat larger than life intruding couple who are hell bent on securing the diminishing family nest for their own new arrival. Set in the backdrop of domestic disintegration and the timely affects of war, Dog Days fails to interrogate any of its themes and issues to any great extent.
That said, there are very strong performances, especially for the wide-eyed and beautifully pitched performance of Lashana Lynch who plays the dotty but affectionate Hayley. Jonathan Oliver as John Wilson and his alcohol-fuelled wife Annie Hulley, as Kate, create a sense of their smothering of each other and their loss well enough within the constraints of rather formulaic two-dimensional characters arcs. Peter Bramhill, as Tony Bell, really pushes all the anger management buttons and has a stare of cold steel, but we never really get to access the truth of his drive or actions.
This dark comedy pushes a little hard to begin with. Making the point, brashly, that it is funny and will, in time, get a little nasty. Really, in truth, it is all just a little prosaic. It feels old and worn just like the sofa and the wonderful attention to detail in most of the set design by Sophie Simensky. Much like the play, the set seemed to be unfinished!
I am afraid that this new play feels very old. The small intersection about Afghanistan does not make it a play of the moment. Rather, it makes this particular theme feel like an add-on to something that needs to be fleshed out and interrogate what it is really like to be broken through grief, cornered by a fox, domestic imprisonment and the potential of life after a death!