In good dog, Anton Cross is endearing as a 13 year old boy growing up in London in the years leading to the 2011 riots. In a raw script by Arinze Kene, the boy brings his neighbourhood to life and the audience is moved to stand beside the boy as he grapples with an unforgiving life. A compelling evening of theatre for our time.
Good things come to good people. Goodness will overrun me. What’s good? I don’t know yet?
good dog is a new work written by Arinze Kene and presented by Tiata Fahodzi. It is playing at The Albany in Deptford at the end of a regional tour. The work of Tiata Fahodzi deals with identity politics of contemporary Britain, seeking to unravel the changes when societies combine. It is apt that this play is presented at The Albany centre which caters for a community that is rich in diverse cultures.
The final story is of the little dog with the big tail cowering in fear of the big gnarling brute next door. The little dog grows into the size of his tail and finally has the strength to vanquish the foe, knowing as he does so that his act will bring about the ultimate penalty of being put down as a vicious animal. He ends his life grinning at his audacity. It is an analogy of the main story about the boy.
Arinze Kene writes plays about the things he knows best. Whilst not autobiographical, the content resounds with aspects of his own life. His plays are gritty and face the hard issues of his background like the racial tensions of the 1980’s in Deptford (God’s Properties) and bullying amongst gang members in (Little Baby Jesus).
good dog is set in the time leading up to and including the 2011 UK riots. It traces the growth of a trusting and simple young man, 13 years of age, who runs with the words of his now absent father in his head, ‘Good things come to good people’.
However the boy is disillusioned as his good behaviour fails to bring forth the bike he wants his mother to get him, good grades in school, relief from bullying, or the dream future that beckons, between himself and his girlfriend Jamilla.
Tragically his belief in the mantra fails entirely by the end of the play. Like the little dog with the too-big tail, the boy stands up for himself and takes back ownership of his life. From the small start of pushing back against inanimate objects, it grows until the moment at the riots when he throws a fire bomb into the corner shop.
The ethos of taking back your life by violent means is troubling. The question becomes one of acceptable means. Is it acceptable to use violence to redress a balance of power? Is it acceptable to pay back in kind?
The writing in good dog is outstanding. The play is a two-act monologue that is punctuated with the voices of the community on a sound track and in spoken word. In this way, the word pictures of the neighbourhood are realized in simple story telling. The ‘What? What?’ girls come alive in the minds of the audience, along with the bully Desmond, and everyone else in the boy’s life.
Anton Cross is brilliant as Boy. He speaks to the audience telling them of his world and his thoughts. He embodies the character of a 13 year old boy facing the challenges of growing up and supporting a parent who should be supporting him. Cross commits to portraying the fears, doubts and sorrows, as well as joy, as the Boy emerges from adolescence into adulthood.
This is a thought provoking piece that leaves the audience questioning the moral of the story. It puts the audience beyond their comfort zone and compels them to empathise with the Boy and his cohorts.