A Coupla Dogs
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Two dogs, one kennel, five days!
The story of two very different dogs in an animal shelter waiting to be adopted… or sent to the ‘backroom’. They discuss dog philosophy and life whilst dealing with a world that offers random acts of kindness, cruelty and absurdity.
Sharp, political and poetic, this new work from Brisbane’s own Dog Spoon reflects on the recesses of our human psyche through the lenses of two hairy ruffians with a bone to pick.
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Why did you want to make this work?
Andrew Cory: I actually started writing this play in 1999 in Copenhagen, Denmark when I was studying theatre there. I wrote three scenes then didn’t touch it till 2018 when I asked Sue Rider to co-write the play with me. I can’t tell you why I started the play way back then but the reason why I wanted to write and stage it now is as a response to the world in 2018. The world is heaving under massive geo-political shifts and dire climate change. We can see that fear can be enrolled by various leaders to drum up tribal and nationalistic rhetoric that further destabilises hope and creativity. I wanted to create a work that had compassion and transformation at its core. What the world needs now I believe is empathy and the courage to think and see beyond the current systems of power. Sue and I want to create a work that reminds our audience that our individual spirit is the first place to start the revolution.
Sue Rider: The first reason I wanted to make this work is that Andrew asked me! I loved working with Andrew on 2 Guys in a Box for Theatre Republic last year. We share an interest in how we might harness comedy and theatricality to make some serious points about the way we all live and interact on this planet. Taking dogs as our medium allows us to have fun and entertain while proposing a few home truths that provoke people to think. We have also assembled a fabulous team.
What are some things that dogs tell us about the world and ourselves that we seem slowest to learn?
AC: Dogs define presence – the ability to be truly and utterly in the moment. That is what we have lost. I particularly like this image below. Dogs remind us to be still and to listen. If you have ever looked into a dog’s eyes you will see/feel a wellspring of presence. It is in this presence that they have relationship with you. It seems we humans hide our eyes in this way for most of the time and we are not comfortable with this stillness lest we hear voices in our head that haunt us rather than bring us peace.
SR: Honesty. Dogs are totally honest – they have no notion of pretence. And they don’t know when they’re being funny! They are also loyal, resilient and trusting, unless they have been hurt, in which case their instinct for self-preservation can turn to savagery. Their keenness to be trained serves as a reminder to us all that the trainer has responsibilities not to exploit the willing to the point of indignity or ridicule.
The World of the Work… Where does the story take place?
AC: Well ... there is an ambiguity in this answer because we have purposely pulled back from many indicators of where and when this is. Whilst it is set in a private (and shoddy) second rate dog refuge it also allows us to place a more human context into the setting. The most important thing about this question is that the work ultimately asks the audience to answer it.
SR: The short answer is ‘Beryl’s Kennels’. But the World of the Work extends into our own world. Dogs in cages reference any living beings that are confined beyond their own control. This can even extend to the closing off of our own hearts and minds. Of course, our dogs are played by actors. Part of the fun of the work is wrestling with the implications of this. Are they men playing dogs or dogs playing men? Do they have access to memory and myth? We know they dream. Does that mean there is a spiritual dimension to their world?
Artistic Influences: Name three artists, writers, theatre-makers, films, books or TV shows that have informed this work and your creative practise.
AC: William Blake: One of my favourite poems is Auguries Of Innocence by William Blake (“To see a world in a grain of sand, And a heaven in a wild flower, Hold infinity in the palm of your hand, And eternity in an hour.”) In this poem there is a stanza that goes:
A dove-house fill'd with doves and pigeons
Shudders hell thro' all its regions.
A dog starv'd at his master's gate
Predicts the ruin of the state.
The idea is that how we treat our most vulnerable will ultimately determine how our society survives (or not). Blake also has a strong mystical element in his work that resonates in A Coupla Dogs.
George Orwell: George Orwell and specifically his novels Animal Farm and 1984 had a very great impact upon me as a teenager. I see elements of neo fascism and demagoguery arising everywhere. You have to maintain vigilance and fight back when these forces try to seduce your society.
George Carlin: A North American stand-up comedian who died in 2008. He was a fierce social and political critic who shone a deep light on human hypocrisy, greed and stupidity. His comedy held up a mirror that did not let anyone hide.
“Sweet Darkness” by David Whyte
When your eyes are tired
the world is tired also.
When your vision has gone
no part of the world can find you.
Time to go into the dark
where the night has eyes
to recognize its own.
There you can be sure
you are not beyond love.
The dark will be your womb
The night will give you a horizon
further than you can see.
You must learn one thing.
The world was made to be free in
Give up all the other worlds
except the one to which you belong.
Sometimes it takes darkness and the sweet
confinement of your aloneness
anything or anyone
that does not bring you alive
is too small for you.
– “Sweet Darkness” by David Whyte, House of Belonging
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