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No Dogs based on interviews with members of the Irish and Jamaican diaspora

No Dogs, at the Old Fire Station, Oxford, on Sunday, January 29. Review by JON LEWIS

Four years ago, pre-pandemic, Oxford’s Flintlock Theatre carried out interviews with members of the Irish and Jamaican diaspora about their lives in England. Using these accounts, No Dogs – with original studio direction by Anna Glynn and this live recording by Amelia Thornber and written by Anna Glynn with Carmen Harris – has made it from page to stage in a performance created for a live recording. Future audiences will be able to watch an animated audio version which has been supported by funding from Arts Council England.

The title refers to racist signs put up in shops, boarding houses and pubs across the country in the fifties and sixties that spelled out ‘no Blacks, no Irish, no dogs’. These derogatory notices are referred to by two of the main characters in the play when they are drinking in a pub.

No Dogs
No Dogs

The story focuses on neighbouring families sharing a run-down building, one of Irish immigrants, one of migrants from Jamaica. The families are led by charismatic men, Dermot (Billy Boyle), who we also see as a firebrand young man fond of his pints of beer, and Winston (Andrew Francis), whose younger self is more emollient. The men are best friends, but they suffer years-long gaps in their relationship as they navigate the passions that are ignited between family members.

In 2019, when the play is set, Dermot has died, but he is still a presence in Winston’s life. Winston visits Dermot’s grave on his friend’s birthday and the audience sees flashbacks to key moments in their past. Both men, and their families, perceive and experience prejudice, but this older generation also has to cope with increasingly liberal attitudes in society. As the audience discovers, Dermot’s generation turns to the priest for help and action when times get tough. Dermot’s decisions affect not only his daughter, Dearbhla’s life over four decades but also lead to a tragedy within Winston’s family. No dogs might also refer to the hounding of younger generations by their elders.

Glynn has brought a large cast to the production, each actor wearing a microphone for the recording. The hour’s drama flies by with the audience applauding warmly at the end.

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