Enlightenment, Hampstead Theatre
Terror at Terror 2010: Death and Resurrection

The wonderful Ivan and the Dogs, Soho Theatre

Images I'm writing about Ivan and the Dogs, which I saw last night, before I complete Tuesday night's review of Terror 2010 at the Southwark Playhouse because I really liked Ivan and I want lots of people to go and see it.

Ivan is simple, engaging storytelling at its best. Indeed it took me back to when I was a kid at school sat crossed-legged on the carpet, completely engrossed in story time.

It is a monologue, written by Hattie Naylor, in which Ivan recounts the tale of when, as a four-year old, he ran away from abusive and neglectful parents. It was the time of the terrible recession in early 1990's Moscow and is based on a true story.

Polish actor Rad Kaim as Ivan, quickly paints a picture of grim city life where impoverished parents have abandoned both pets and sometimes children they can't afford to feed. Gangs of children roam the streets terrorising the local Bombzi (tramps) for food and money to buy glue to sniff and dogs hunt in packs for anything they can find to eat.

Danger is everywhere and Ivan is all alone but for a white dog he meets.

There is what looks like a very large piece of ventilation pipe on the stage that ends in box at the centre, open on the audience side and from which most of the play is performed. Occasionally images of dogs are projected onto the back wall of the box and you hear the Russian-speaking people he encounters along the way. But in keeping Ivan predominantly in the box the attention is focused on the story and how it is told.

Kaim plays Ivan with the sensibilities of a young child, searching for love and attention. You couldn't not believe that he was telling his own story. It is an enthralling performance, heart-warming and at times very moving.

This is going to be one of those small plays that sticks with me and so it gets five stars.

Ivan and the Dogs is on at the Soho Theatre until November 6. It's unallocated seating, so head down the front and have Ivan look you in the eye with such joy as he recounts when he was offered some chocolate to eat.


I've nicked this from the 6DS I did for Through A Glass Darkly but I can't help it if both plays have the same technical staff so here goes: Dan Jones, sound designer on Ivan also did the sound design for Criminal Justice which of course starred our own Ben Whishaw.

But as that feels like a bit of a cheat I've also found another link in Ellen McDougal, who directed Ivan, was staff director at the National and assisted director Bijan Sheibani on Our Class which had in it an actress called Amanda Hale who lists Bright Star on her CV. Phew.

Oh and happy birthday Mr W.