Last seen as part of the BBC’s popular Play For Today series, Dog Ends has been adapted and updated by Richard Harris for its limited 4-week run at the Tabard Theatre. Keith Strachan directs Christien Anholt (The Vet), Anita Graham (Beatrice), Bryan Hands (Grandad), Jeffrey Holland (Henry), Alex Mann (Julian), Charlotte Peak (Danielle) and Nick Wilton (George).
The time is tomorrow. Middle-aged George is under increasing emotional and financial pressure looking after his father and his beloved dog. When George confides in neighbourhood friend Henry that the dog is nearing the end of his time, he is passed the contact of a highly-recommended vet. However, there is a serious misunderstanding over just what it is the vet actually does and who he works for.
Nick Wilton answered a few questions about the production and the character he plays, George:
Q: What made you want to be a part of Dog Ends?
Nick: It’s a terrific play – a wonderful mix of social comedy and satire with a hint of farce. I’ve always loved Richard’s plays and was in a National tour of his Outside Edge a few years ago, which was great fun.
I’ve worked with two of the cast several times before too – Anita Graham and Jeffrey Holland – we’ve done quite a few Ray Cooney farces together; Jeffrey and I were in the revival of Two Into One at the Menier Chocolate Factory a couple of years ago (2014).
It’s great working with them both again – my biggest problem is they make me laugh when I shouldn’t.
Q: You play the part of George – what can you tell us about him?
Nick: The thing about George is that he does occasionally get quite ‘airiated‘, but then that’s not surprising is it. It’s not easy for him, having his old father living with them, and then there’s poor old Rinty, the dog – at some point he’s going to have to make the decision to have him put down. Rinty, that is, not his Father – I didn’t mean that… wouldn’t it be awful if there was a misunderstanding…
Q: What can you tell us about the storyline?
Nick: Dog Ends is a dark comedy set in a future ‘maybe sooner than you think’ told through a particularly ‘ordinary’ family who find themselves in the most extra-ordinary situation. Middle-aged George is under increasing emotional and financial pressure looking after his father and his beloved dog. When George confides in neighbourhood friend Henry that the dog is nearing the end of his time, he is passed the contact of a highly-recommended vet. However, there is a serious misunderstanding over just what it is the vet actually does and who he works for.
Q: How does the stage adaptation compare to the television production?
Nick: I only watched the first five minutes or so, because I didn’t want to be too influenced by Leonard Rossiter’s George – he was a wonderful actor and I didn’t want to do a pale imitation of his performance.
Richard’s done a fantastic job updating the play, particularly with the younger parts – I’m not sure George and Bea (his wife) have changed that much – they’re actually quite an old-fashioned couple anyway. As I recall, in the TV production Julian, their son, is very much a younger version of his father, even wearing very similar clothes – whereas now there’s much clearer generation gap.
One big difference, between 1984 and 2017 is that we now all have mobile phones (although George and Bea can’t really be bothered with them) so there’s some nice new business that’s been added with Julian and Danielle, his new wife’s, obsession with their smartphones.
At the root of the play is the problem of how society can cope with the ever-growing ageing population; even more pertinent today than when the play was originally written in 1984.
Q: Can you tell us about rehearsals and what it is like working with the team?
Nick: It’s always interesting how a play develops during rehearsals. Before the first day together all you’ve got is the way you heard the play in your head reading it through on your own; at the read-through you hear it for the first time with other voices – it’s fascinating to see the choices the other actors have made in how they are going to play their characters.
Then you start putting it “on its feet” and it changes again; things you thought you might do at certain points suddenly don’t work and new ideas develop in their place.
It’s also great having Richard (Harris) in rehearsals with us, giving notes and tidying up odd moments through the play, then joining us in the pub downstairs after rehearsals and telling some wonderful stories of things that have happened through his amazing career.
Q: Why should everyone get along to see Dog Ends?
Nick: It’s a wonderful play; funny and thought provoking, oh, and with a bit of Max Bygraves thrown in for good measure.
2 Bath Road, London, W4 1LW
22 March – 15 April 2017
Press night: 23 March 7:30pm