Good Dog by Arinze Kene
Kwaku Mills Actor and Arinze Kene - Writer
Set in the nineties in inner city London, Good Dog follows a Good Boy who is trying his best to uphold righteous values as advised by his pastor and estranged father.
We follow this boy to man account of trying to just be good for a bicycle promised by his mother. Visible seemingly only to Desmond and his gang who have him in head locks daily and regularly beating him up at school, our Young Man looks through his window and later down from his balcony at his community - invisible to the world. We meet all of the neighbors and their struggles with morality through our Good Boy - hiding behind the walls of his estate but observing everything.
Like with all good one man/ woman performances – after the first 10 minutes I forgot that I was only meeting these characters vicariously through the main and only character in the play.
I saw the Old man Boateng, a Ghanaian drinker trying to fight his addiction and make an important call at the phone box across the road.
I laughed at the What-What Girls that visit Gahndi’s corner shop and steal items unapologetically.
And I tensed up and felt uneasy at the Smoking Boys who continuously smoke outside Trevor Seniors backyard as he teaches his son Trevor Junior to play cricket, despite the polluted air.
Returning back from the interval kwaku mills does a brilliant job of transforming from this awkward adolescent, fragile boy to… well a seasoned experienced man in both his body and voice.
I really enjoyed the transition, and felt that the otherwise prejudged character – had won over the audience by his sensitivity in the first half. I also enjoyed the distinct transition because we often marginalize this idea of the hooded man. It is a surface character, one that lacks depth rather than a real human. But the display, in the first half of a Young Man that is bullyed, invisibile, fragile and loyal to his community - dimantles this image. The hood not only is a symbol of a mask and a shield, but us as an audience are educated to why the hood is worn.
So you know by now how relevant titles are to me. And Good Dog is no different - offering a great illustration of how we all are on some sort of leash.... Dog leash. Held by the system, the 'powers that be' maybe, and being a 'Good Dog'. The majority of us do good, be good, live safe - because of religion, parents or some other type of doctrine.
Aside - Now don’t get me wrong – I am all about doing right, but Good Dog most definitely got me to question why. Why do the majority of us, just play good?
Is it for some reward? Probably
When actually it should just be for our personal integrity!
But Good Dog is not just metaphorically relating to our Young Man (who is actually unnamed) holding good values and being led - this is characterised, vicariously again, between our Young Man and an actual good dog.
We meet two dogs Big Dog and Little dog. Big Dog constantly torments Little Dog through the neighboring fence that separates them.
One-day, the usual occurrence of Big Dog barking at Little Dog, whilst their owners are out at work occurs. But this time Big Dog breaks through that fence! Running for his life - Little Dog manages to escape death but is traumatised by the experience making him not so passive anymore. He becomes a terror to his owner and eventually, years later, kills Big Dog.
These events are described in the same way as Old Man Boateng, the What What Girls, Gahndi and the other characters – but like all of the charaters life and journey, they are a parallel to our Young Man’s actual experience, which shapes who he is.
Good Dog will be on tour until the end of March - click the link for dates!