‘Three Dogs Barking’ remount ‘polished and assured’

Gordon Jones
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I last saw Frank Barry’s “3 Dogs Barking” in October 2004. It was the opening production in the Resource Centre for the Arts’ season, the first production to start at 8 p.m. rather than at the LSPU Hall’s previously sacrosanct 8:30 curtain time. The abrogation of the revered tenet of “half an hour later at the Hall” did not cause the sky to fall.

The play is now back for a four-day run in the same venue, starting at the same time, but featuring three different actors, the author himself, together with Ruth Lawrence and Mike Daly.

The action takes place wholly in an examination room in the Waterford Hospital, where a hard-nosed but articulate police officer, Const. Coveyduck (Daly), and a poised but compassionate psychiatrist (Lawrence) are interviewing a petty crook from Shea Heights (Barry), who has confessed to a murder he didn’t commit.

The first half-hour or so has Lawrence and Daly setting up the narrative by discussion of the full-time, small-time criminal. Both are thoroughly convincing in their roles. On learning that a female had been cast as the psychiatrist in what had originally been an all-male show, I wondered if this would disturb the balance. It did not. No problem for Ruth Lawrence to cross swords with an alpha male or two.

Then, the diminutive, bespectacled, handcuffed recidivist is introduced: Jimmy Larkin from Shea Heights — surly, anti-social, foul-mouthed, but also satirical, intelligent and intransigent.

In due course, the table is dramatically turned: captive becomes captor, a captor who sermonizes and threatens, rehearsing individual and collective injustices of past and present visited on himself and on the working class of St. John’s. In his in-your-face, profane, anti-establishment tirades, airing ancient family and class grudges,

Barry’s Jimmy Larkin is entirely scary, a manic philosopher and avenger, a threatening social analyst from the underclass.

The show is grittily realistic, although shot through with comic and satirical insights. Language is often violently profane, but on occasion unexpectedly lyrical and reflective.

Directed this time round by local film-director Justin Simms, a polished and assured production of “3 Dogs Barking,” featuring its author in the lead role, continues its run in the Cox and Palmer Second Space of the LSPU Hall until Saturday, starting at 8 p.m. With no intermission, running time is a brisk and intense 80 minutes, which kept a small but knowledgeable opening-night audience fully engaged.

Organizations: Waterford Hospital

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