Review: Mad Dogs and An Englishman, Guildhall Theatre, Derby

Steven Blakeley and Laura Freeman in Bare Words. Picture by Robert Day
Steven Blakeley and Laura Freeman in Bare Words. Picture by Robert Day

Derby Live’s first home produced show for two years is a delectable double dose of comedy from some of Derbyshire’s finest artists.

Writer Tim Elgood, director Pete Meakin and two actors who have worked their way up from the Derby Playhouse Youth Theatre – Steven Blakeley and Laura Freeman, were joined by actor Sean O’Callaghan to stage Mad Dogs and an Englishman.

The show, being performed at the Guildhall Theatre in Derby, is two one-act plays each either side of the interval that combine to tell a humorous and heartwarming story which will make you want to laugh and cry.

Part one is The Dog House, which tells the story of Paddy a dog, played by Sean O’Callaghan, who has opted to leave the humans who owned him and prefers to remain in the Mayday Dog Rescue Centre.

The biggest problem the barefoot, pajama wearing Paddy has is avoiding being offered a new home.

He is eventually joined in his cage by feisty Flash played by Laura Freeman and happy-to-please Harry, played by Steven Blakeley.

Flash – every inch the stroppy teenager sporting denim shorts and hoody jacket with the compulsory thick tights strewn with holes – paces about the stage just as you would expect a tragic dog in a rehoming centre.

While she snarls at the children on the other side her sidekick Harry just wants to be loved and there is a superb scene where the teddy bear carrying border terrier (with just a little bit of cross) dances to entertain his potential new owners.

Meanwhile Paddy looks on with resigned amusement and impresses his new inmates with tales of purposely leaving puddles on his owners rug and ‘tom tits’ alongside the breakfast bar.

After the interval the second play Bare Words is performed on the same set with just the minimum of changes.

This is the story of a writer on the verge of writing a great play if only he can overcome the obstacles in his way. Elgood admits that the play was written from his own experience and explores the fine line between inspiration and intimidation.

Steven plays Him and Laura plays Her – the woman in his subconscious helping Him realise what he needs to change in his life.

The chemistry between the three actors is electric and Elgood’s humour is delivered with perfect timing. The team behind the show clearly enjoy working together and let’s hope they collaborate on something else soon.

Mad Dogs and An Englishman is a terrific evening’s entertainment and what’s even better is that if you are watching it you are supporting our own homegrown talent.

Choreography was by Kitty Winter, set design Andy Mill, lighting design Chris Munn, sound design Eleanor Harris and costume design Mali-Beth Rose.

The show can be seen at the Guildhall Theatre until May 31. Go to http://www.derbylive.co.uk for ticket details.

You can watch a video trailer of the production here.