Not Even the Dogs is a devised piece of theatre, and is certainly intriguing. Even before going in for the show, I knew that this would evoke a powerful message. As I walked into the corpus playroom, I saw the cast sitting in chairs staring as the audience walked in. From then to the end of the show when they left the Corpus door, every movement was thrilling and captivating. The play was well crafted and the director Josh Baumring-Gledhill did an incredible job at bringing the right nuances to the stage. The stage felt too strong and at times I felt too uncomfortable in my seat. Uncomfortable in the way that history was being depicted and the history although familiar felt impossible, too brutal to rewatch. The show is not for everyone I suppose but when you walk into this show, things will be different when you walk-out. There’s a journey being showcased, a culture being celebrated and most of all, discomfort in coming to terms with the facts on which the show is based.
The story of the Warsaw Ghetto is a harsh backdrop to the play and the idea that an ethnicity will be completely annihilated and possibly forgotten in history makes the storyline quite compelling to watch. The unfolding of events is familiar but their depiction is honest, powerful and evokes strong emotions. The actors were all immersed in their roles and this heightened the delivery of the whole play. A particular standout performance came from the lead Saul Barett as Emmanuel Ringelblum. The audience is completely engrossed in his emotions and actions. In the actor’s performance, you can see the vision and the pain of Emmanuel Ringelblum. The rest of the cast also do a stellar job. The chemistry between Emmanuel and Yehudis Ringelblum (Louisa Grinyer) seems both natural and almost infectious as you strongly feel their struggle. Katya Stylianou, Josh Baumring-Gledhill and Dominika Wiatrowska give strong performances in their capacity as well.
The music brings in a focus and strength to the story that exemplifies the actors’ delivery and the director’s vision. The music in some capacity complements the strong performances by the actors and in some surpasses them(Clarinet – Phoebe Bunce; Piano – Josh Myers; Cello – Ellen Baumring-Gledhill; Composer – Josh Myers; Sound Designer – Tim McGilly). The lights (Tom Chandler) make the stage lively yet unsettling (it grabs your attention). The movement direction by Dominika Wiatrowska adds a sense of flow to the chaos of the multiple storylines and helps in keeping up with the story. It also enriches the performance of the actors and helps focus on their emotionality. The quick movements and the heavy breathes remain a highlight of the show. It evokes a strong sense of engagement with the audience and also makes it a thrilling journey for them. Like the whispers in the wind, you can hear them in more than just sound and dialogues.
The play does a great job and reaches its intended objective of celebrating Jewish culture against the backdrop of the Warsaw ghetto. It does however fall in a few spots as not being convincing enough of being about the story of how they lived. It’s obviously important to show the gruesome reality that the Jews dealt with but at times this comes at the cost of diluting the celebration of their lives. If this was intended by the show’s creators, it’s good storytelling but a better balance of joy and sadness would’ve enhanced the play’s value and experience. Nevertheless, this show is one brutally honest depiction and makes a great theatrical piece to share, enrich and experience. As a devised show, Not Even The Dogs crosses off all the right boxes of a great show.