Review: My Favourite Dog, Barnabas Arts House, Newport

Rebecca Royall reviews Odyssey Theatre Company’s presentation of Adele Cordner’s play My Favourite Dog based on a book by Val Ormrod and performed at Newport’s Barnabas Arts House.

My Favourite Dog is a poignant, funny and heart wrenching play about living with dementia.

Produced by Odyssey Theatre Company, the play begins with Helen, a teacher, introducing the story as she deals with the grief of losing her father, although we meet him searching for his dog Peggy, off-stage near the audience before Helen appears. It is the first of many interactions that Dad, brilliantly played by Mark Lloyd, has with the audience throughout the play’s two acts.

Helen is played by Deborah Evans-Gale as well as two other characters that briefly appear in the story. She gives a compelling performance as a carer trying to balance her life, and as a daughter attempting to navigate the changing relationship with her father who sometimes thinks she is his favourite dog.

Mark Lloyd, without the assistance of make-up or special effects, ages extremely well throughout the play, giving us a father that we love and care for as if he were our own.

These heavyweight performances take place on a set which is deceptively simple, with all costume changes being done onstage during performance and a soundtrack that puts you in the mood for nostalgia.  

But the credit really must go to director and writer Adele Cordner who provides us with a wonderful telling of a remarkable story.

My Favourite Dog was inspired by the book In My Father’s Memory by Val Ormrod. In the opening scene Helen tells us that she hopes her story will help others and it certainly does. It gives insight for those who have never been a carer or a sufferer of dementia. It gives hope to those who understand both roles through personal experience. But mostly, My Favourite Dog gives us a tale of love and reminds us that ultimately it is all we really need.

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