Raw, dark and uncompromising, Doglife is part two of a devised trilogy portraying the complex life of Thomas “Tosh” McCrudden, a former gangland enforcer, focusing predominantly on his dysfunctional relationships with women. With McCrudden playing himself in this play, the hard man characterisation is as genuine as they come. He is truly scary and completely void of the unconvincing and one-dimensional portrayals often seen by actors in similar roles. The actors appear to bring personal experiences into the piece, forming an ultra-realistic, bleak and gritty storyline.
Performed in a black-box theatre within Summerhall, the only props on stage are two chairs. An oppressive atmosphere develops quickly in the room as a series of scenes depict McCrudden’s many moods; from cheeky rogue to violently-tempered monster. These swings in personality successfully unsettle audience members, who never know what will be coming next. McCrudden’s wife and girlfriends are played by an excellent supporting cast, each character displaying the psychological effects his actions have on them.
Doglife also examines the cycle of fear and violence created through living in impoverished council estates, and the role society plays in producing (and maintaining) such harsh environments in which the “I’ll get them before they get me” mentality is forced to flourish.
The outbursts of personal experience at times feel difficult to witness and would benefit from some harnessing in order to mould a more accessible piece of drama. This dizzying assault on the senses, amid a series of scenes of personal torment from the past and present, is certainly not for the faint-hearted. However there are intermittent moments of dark humour throughout the piece, and some respite is provided towards the end as McCrudden finally finds remorse for his actions and lifestyle.
For untrained actors this is a herculean effort. Doglife raises very important social questions that need to be talked about more in society in order for answers to be found. It is not easy viewing, but important things in life rarely come easily.