Anna Robi and the House of Dogs
Gobsmacked Theatre Company @ Holden Street Theatres – The Studio
6:00pm, Tue 3 Mar 2015
So I’m out at Holden Street and, as usual for my first-show-of-the-day, I’m early. I pop out to the ticket office to have a chat – how have crowds been, what are the big shows, the usual thing. While I’m there, a group of women buy their tickets for Anna Robi and the House of Dogs, and as they walk away I hear one lament that they didn’t bring their kids along. “I think they’d have really liked this,” she said.
But after the ridiculously filthy, profane, and perhaps physically impossible phone sex call that played at the opening of the show, I reckon the women may have thought otherwise.
Anna is at one end of the phone line, desperately trying to build a relationship with Roger on the other… but they’ve connected via a phone sex chat line, and whilst Anna is seeking romance, Roger is masturbating furiously (to apparently great results) to her gentle platitudes.
Sharing the room with Anna is her Mother – a crude, bitter, cantankerous hoarder who refuses to allow Anna any autonomy. As Anna shares her dream of meeting a man – maybe even losing her virginity – Mother objects in the strongest (and wrongest) way possible: by demonstrating the “joy” of sex with one of her many dogs.
Yep, it’s that kind of show.
Anna builds up an idea in her mind that Roger is her White Knight… but the reality is far seedier, and made even more problematic when Mother decides that she wants a piece of Roger, too. Anna’s attempts to get Mother out of the bedroom (so that she can consummate her misguided relationship with Roger) are hilarious; Mother’s ensnaring of the joyous man offers some of the best lines in the show. Roger’s dialogue is magnificently vulgar and Australian: “I brought the frangers!” he exclaims with glee, before concerned surprise fills his voice as he observes that “Real gash looks different.”
The stage is covered in newspaper – to assist with the dog waste, of course, evidence of which is scattered throughout – and the grimy bed at its centre is surrounded by boxes of shopping catalogues… it’s a suitably squalid setting. The cast are uniformly excellent – Anna is played relatively straight by Hannah Nicholson, whereas Mother’s lines are milked for every filth-encrusted smirk by Emily Branford. The dual envisionings of Roger are wonderfully brought to life by Phil Harker-Smith.
Anna Robi and the House of Dogs is utterly vulgar… it’s sheer filth. But behind the almost overwhelming coarseness, there’s a hint of honest truth… and it is also stupidly good fun, and exactly the type of theatre that I want to see around Fringe-time: experimental, raucous, enthusiastic.