Romeo and Juliet is a play which, like so many others written by Shakespeare, concludes with a sense of unresolved chaos. One gets the feeling that although the ending is tied up nicely for its audience, it merely signals the beginning of a long road to peace and justice for Verona itself. Bard Heads’ Dog, Book and Scandal is a fine attempt to give an insight into the consequences of this journey.
Bard Heads are presenting two shows exploring Shakepsearean characters post-text, the second of which is features Miranda after the events of The Tempest. But this one, Dog, Book and Scandal, is a one-man show written and performed by Richard Curnow – a man who could be described as one of theatre’s Shakespeare veterans. He invites us to witness the future life of Friar Lawrence, now living in infamy and exile with only an old apothecary and a scruffy dog for companionship. Of course, we see neither of these; all the secondary characters are reflected only through the dog’s offstage presence, and Friar Lawrence’s commendable imitations.
Curnow has done a splendid job in writing the play. The last ten minutes feel quite rushed in terms of plot, but Curnow has fleshed out his characters thoroughly, ensuring a colourful and engaging monologue. What I liked most about this production is its fine balance between creating a sympathetic character, and imbuing him with a personality that can only be described as despicable and pathetic. In many ways, Curnow has turned Friar Lawrence into a modern man, who only makes his mind up on faith when it suits his own best interests. And although I was not particularly taken in by a lot of the Friar’s philosophies, they do serve to illustrate a fickle side of his character that echoes back to the capricious figures of Shakespeare’s text.
There were a few slip ups here and there, some accents could be fine-tuned and there is a clumsy set change in the middle, but these are only minor distractions from otherwise great performance. Bear in mind, though, that you do have to be a fan of the Bard to get the most out of this production. I wouldn’t recommend it as your first approach to Shakespeare, but if you like the concept, it certainly won’t be a disappointment. I walked out feeling quite content – after all, if there’s one thing this play offers that Romeo and Juliet did not, it’s a neat conclusion.