Student theatre can be notoriously hit and miss, and student musicals even more so. Student Theatre at Glasgow (STAG)’s latest Fringe piece, and winner of their 2016 New Works Festival, falls into both of these categories and could definitely be classed as a risk. Directed by Anna Saxberg and Anna Rattray, ‘A Dog’s Tale’ is an upbeat musical comedy which falls somewhere between ‘Bugsy Malone’ and ‘Cats and Dogs’. The family friendly show – minus a few puns about bones and bitches – is the brainchild of Saxberg, a fourth year theatre studies student at the University of Glasgow.
As far as homespun musicals go, ‘A Dog’s Tale’ is a triumph. The acting is solid, the script fluid and the jokes never miss the mark. Although the performances are particularly strong from all involved, James Johnson and Elliot Thompson stand out as the perfect double act, interacting wonderfully and providing enough animation and impeccable comedic timing to keep any audience engaged. Saxberg’s casting is flawless, with each of her actors seeming to embody their individual characters perfectly, and the rehearsal and devising methods have clearly worked their magic; at times the performers have an uncanny canine/feline quality to their movements and mannerisms.
A piece that has obviously been rehearsed to within an inch of its life, mistakes were refreshingly few and far between, save for the usual occasional technical fault which is all too common with Fringe shows that are still finding their feet. However, the drawn out devising and rehearsal process does at times take its toll, and the action and the jokes lose a degree of spontaneity.
When it comes to the musical numbers, they act as a welcome break from the rest of the action without becoming mundane and downright annoying. Never too long or too complicated, Saxberg has created melodies which are pleasant to the ears, easy to follow and most importantly, not an overreach for a cast of actors, as opposed to singers.
All in all, ‘A Dog’s Tale’ is an all round crowd pleaser, a welcomed break from the amateur catastrophes and pretentious nightmares which are so easy to stumble upon at the Fringe. STAG have produced their best show yet and I can’t wait to see where they go from here.
A Dog’s Tale runs at the TheSpace, Surgeons Hall: Edinburgh Fringe from the 5th-20th August at 1pm every day except Sundays.