Dog in the Manger (2011)

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Poster by Emma Baines

by Lope de Vega

Directed by Mark Ireson and Charlotte Vaight

Performances: Tuesday 19 to Saturday 23 April 2011, Prompt Corner


Ever fallen in love with someone you shouldn’t have?

Diana, the independent, headstrong and beautiful Countess of Belflor, is a woman in the habit of seeing off the various men in pursuit of her hand, until she finds herself becoming increasingly attracted to her personal secretary, Teodoro. This is not a union that the rigid society they inhabit would readily permit, and things are complicated further by Teodoro's existing relationship with Marcela, one of Diana's ladies in waiting.

Suspecting Diana's feelings for him, Teodoro is quick to cast aside Marcela, who is not best pleased. Nor are Diana's current suitors, the pompous Federico and Ricardo; when they discover where Diana's affections really lie, they soon hatch a scheme to dispose of Teodoro. They unwittingly hire Tristan, Teodoro’s lackey, as the assassin, who takes their money but manages to dupe the Duke Ludovico into thinking that Teodoro is his long lost son. Ludovico gains a son, Teodoro a title, Diana a husband, and they all live happily(…ish) ever after.

David Johnston’s fast paced translation (commissioned for the RSC without a thee or thou in sight) brings out the intelligence and comedy of Lope de Vega's bittersweet satire of lust, class, jealousy and love for a modern audience.




I haven’t had time to write a review after seeing a show for ages. But tonight I do. Which is brilliant, because tonight I saw Dog in the Manger.

In customary review form, I’ll get the niggles out of the way first. Too long for my liking, particularly the first half. Although this is not a criticism of the pace. Also, I felt at points the dialogue (and monologue) tended to labour the point. Finally, once or twice I caught what looked like actors struggling to contain their laughs when the audience laughed. You can’t get away with lip twitching in Prompt! Perhaps it was characterisation (it was the same actors each time) but, if it was, I feel it ought to have perhaps been made less subtle. These are my small criticisms – most of them directed at the script, rather than the production. But I wouldn’t want them to detract from the play – which is incredibly witty in its dialogue, as well as being engaging and heart rendering.

I really loved the simple staging – the lack of set (save for the infamous One Chair) was borne well by the actors and used very effectively. There were rarely problems with blocking – despite having to contend with audience on three sides. Costumes were fabulous – hats off to Emma Kerby-Evans.

What I really loved, however, were the rich characters that filled and consumed the space. Each relationship was believable and every actor on stage had fantastic comedic timing (I look forward to seeing Kerry Perkins in a larger role). Victoria Arter-Furlong, as the lead, showed fantastic versatility between the ice queen and the melted damsel. She was compelling to watch – having also seen her in Enchanted April I hope she is someone we will see more and more of. The only other actor I will name-check is Michael Wilson – the famous Voice – cast perhaps against type this time, whose performance I really enjoyed - making me laugh every time he was on stage. Although I feel guilty singling anyone out as the whole cast were fantastic.

Mark and Charlotte (and all the cast and production crew) have done a wonderful job here. It was a decent audience tonight and deserves to be for the rest of the week. It’s an engaging and funny play. Get your tickets!

Catherine Ellis

Hear Hear!

Excellent use of Prompt and of the blacks masking the entrances and the hard Prompt walls. I love the seating in this arrangement and wish it was used more often.

I agree about the corpsing - it distracts and detracts from otherwise very funny performances. Generally very good acting and movement and very convincing and sympathetic characters - all in wonderful costumes.

Victoria is very good as Diana and her range of vocal expression is excellent but her body does not always carry it through, particularly in the first scene when the words said anger, her voice said anger but every muscle said remarkably relaxed concentration. Nevertheless, I hope too to see her in more things.

This is, however, very much a team piece and everyone worked brilliantly as part of the ensemble so congratulations to Mark and Charlotte for pulling it all together so well.

I can't resist just a little extra clap for Michael though....

Carole Coyne

Yes, I concur with all that's been remarked so far (including Catherine's giggling at Michael's Tristan, as I was sat next to her) and I can't really find fault with this show. It was a lengthy one but can't really see how you could shave anything off that dialogue without robbing it of a great line or necessary plot exposition. It all felt very worked at, you got the impression that most of the actors had really agonised over their delivery of some lines to the point where they were beautifully executed and in many cases soaked through with emotion- that'll be Mark's iron fist, I'd wager. Victoria made it satisfying to watch the dried-out old bitch seize her chance to finally find happiness; I found Erik & Roberta's scenes as Teodoro and Marcela really engaging, and Adam did a great little turn (and raked in a lot of the laughs) as the outrageously creepy cousin suitor. My only quibble was that I didn't get every single reaction or aside due to blocking, but with that layout it's got to be impossible to give every audience member the perfect seat; and indeed an addition to the appeal was knowing that your experience of the performance was unique to everyone else's. A really disciplined and refined piece in my opinion.

Daniel Kelly

This is a really excellent show.. It was clear that everyone involved had worked hard to produce this tightly directed, slick production where every nuance of movement and dialogue was considered and understood. The lack of set gives no room to hide, and it's credit to the whole cast and directors that no hiding places were needed.

The play itself has some sparkling dialogue that you wouldn't expect from a contemporary of Shakespeare, thanks in a great part to the fantastic translation that brings the words, thoughts, feelings and humour bang up to date.

If I had any criticism of the performance of the spellbinding Victoria as Diana, it might be that I would have liked to have seen her have a bit more fun with some of her lines - the capriciousness of the character, even in the face of such emotional turmoil, gives rise to some excellent shrewish lines and I sort of wished we'd seen more of this side. But that's just my personal reading - and is balanced admirably by the sheer beautiful emotion she shows in the more serious scenes.

I do agree that it's a wee bit overlong, but that's the text, not the production. It does suffer a little, in my opinion, from too many soliloquies (particularly from Teodoro - although excellently performed by Eric), which slow down the otherwise gripping pace.

This is a rare beast - a period play with one foot in its 16th century origins and one firmly planted in the world of modern language and sensibilities.

And Michael Wilson is hilarious.

Naomi Liddle

I would like to say how much I enjoyed your production, and to offer my congratulations. It is a wonderful play - which I had not hitherto known, and was delighted to see - but it must have seemed a dauntingly ambitious task to take on. I thought you succeeded brilliantly. The production had real focus, attack, pace, and clarity, as well as confidence, and it was always a pleasure to watch. What's more it had a performance from the female lead actor which was good by any standard.

David Goudge


The full collection of Phil's photos can be seen here

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