Nobody ever really knows what takes place behind closed doors. Which allows domestic abuse to thrive undetected and the first signs we often hear about it is when tragedy strikes. Often followed by an outcry of why didn’t the victim speak out. Rosalind Blessed’s play The Delight of Dogs and the Problems of People gives an insight into how a victim is manipulated and “made to feel” as to why speaking out is not that straightforward.
James (Duncan Wilkins) begins their story on the couple’s fifth wedding anniversary evening as he is preparing dinner for Robin (Rosalind Blessed). The scene of domesticity appears to be completely normal. Why wouldn’t someone cook an anniversary meal to show someone how much they care?
The dense storyline is brilliantly scripted with Wilkins deadly portrayal of James bringing the twisted and calculated mind of a perpetrator uncomfortably to life. There are many keys words used and he often adds a sly laugh at the end to pretend that he was just kidding. There are so many trigger messages delivered throughout which are unnerving.
The death of their beloved dog Ben sees the couple reunite again after Robin had fled their family home. The meeting is fairly brief as the couple bury him, but as James starts to question Robin his old habits return. Questions remain unclear as to the nature of his death. Yet killing family pets has been documented as part of a perpetrators profile. They will destroy anything the victim loves to relish in causing.
This isn’t an easy play to watch. Yet, I felt it delivers an extremely important insight into how domestic abuse takes place. How it demoralises the victim and empowers the abuser. The rational thought process used by James into how “she made him do it” from an outsiders perspective as an isolated incident could easily be believed. Which is exactly what the perpetrators rely on.
The online production filmed by Aydan Wilder has captured the intense drama between Robin and James throughout the entire performance. The skill in which he focuses in at the exact time on each character during key scenes is superb. Filming live Theatre in a Fringe venue which is often small with limited flexibility is definitely not an easy task. Wilder has done this production justice with his camera skills.
This play is an eye-opening account for anyone who is unsure about how domestic abuse manifests inside a relationship and the play offers a very raw and honest answer. What makes this play harder to watch is knowing that for many thousands of people this staged version is actually their reality.
Please use the link below to see this and other productions on the online Fringe festival site. For anyone affected by any of the themes in this production please check out the websites below and please do not hesitate to ask for help.
Filmed by-Aydan Wilder