“The Black Dog On My Sofa” by Callum Walker
A strange title for a play but after seeing this play, written and directed by Callum Walker and produced by Amy Crighton, you soon realise that “the black dog” is depression itself. It asks why we have trouble talking about our mental health issues with others and how we can go about making it better, not just for us, but for others as well.
Meg lives with her slovenly roommate Steve, a layabout. As time goes on, more and more roommates move in - the bubbly and upbeat Lucy and the charismatic and commanding John - each more unusual than the last. This pushes the limits of Meg’s friendships, and her patience. It is in the interactions between this strange group of characters and Meg where we see what depression really does to people, often without anyone realising.
And it's only until you get to the final scene that you realise exactly who, or what Steve, Lucy and John really are.
The play may only be half an hour long but it packs a punch and will leave you with a long lasting impression. If I were in charge of a media like Notts TV, this would be the sort of short story I'd be snapping these students' hands off for because you don't fully realise what's happening until the end. This is the mark of a good script and a good writer.
Grace Williams (Meg) gives nothing away from the start as we first see her talking with her flatmate Steve, names are unimportant as we find out later in the play. Steve is lounging on the sofa eating her way through another packet of Monster Munch (Pickled onion flavour - it's not important). Meg had the idea of getting a bit fitter. Steve constantly berates Meg and puts her down. The flat is a mess. This is important because it also reflects Meg's mind. Cleverly envisioned I imagine by the Technical Director, Rohanna Brown.
Beth Wilson (Steve) constantly makes Meg feel bad about trying to better herself and the hobbies and aims Meg has. A real downer of a flat mate. And then Steve drops the bombshell that another flatmate will be joining them and that she will take over Meg's room and that Meg will need to sleep in the sofa.
Rose Edgeworth (Lucy) is the sort of room mate you'd hate to have when you're feeling a bit low. Always wanting to find a cure for your ills and wanting to help. Like keeping you awake at night to get more done and then waking you up early so that you're not wasting your time worrying that you have too much to do and not enough time to do it in.
Will Berrington (John) is the third flatmate. If you think Steve and Lucy are horrors, you ain't met this one! He is annoying with a capital "A". He is in yer face, demanding, the sort of flatmate that you'd do anything to get rid of because he is constantly there, chipping away at everything you do and making you feel bad about yourself. You'd feel like shooting him.....if you had a gun!
It's the mark of a good actor when they can make you feel any emotion for their character and before I found out the ending, I started to feel that I'd absolutely hate to have these three in my life and felt real empathy as well as sympathy for Meg. When you feel these emotions towards characters, you know that the actors have done their job. You also know that the story is a very strong one.
The lighting (Joanne Blunt and Joe Strickland) in this play is particularly effective but simple. the lights were either on or off and the blackouts at the end of the scenes created a stark cut off from scene to scene, making a big impact.
Design Assistant for this one was Daniel McVey.
You may have already worked out what is going on in this play, but if not it may come as a bit of an eye opener. It will definitely get you talking about this play and the subject matter for a while after it's over.
Another excellent, thought-provoking piece of theatre from the students at the Nottingham New Theatre in what is turning out to be one of the best and most powerful seasons at NNT to date.
“The Black Dog On My Sofa” is at the Nottingham New Theatre on the University campus until Tuesday 21 March 2017.