REVIEW: Ivan i els Gossos (Ivan and the Dogs)

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A Catalan version of Ivan and the Dogs (Ivan i els Gossos), is performed with courage and conviction by young actor Pol López at Teatre Lliure in Barcelona (see below for January and February dates). The British play, written by Hattie Naylor in 2010, is narrated by a young man who describes his childhood experiences living on Moscow’s streets in the company of a pack of dogs.

The play is based on the remarkable true story of Ivan Mishukov who spent two years, from the age of 4 to 7, on the streets of the Russian capital before he was eventually ‘captured’ by police in 1998. Naylor’s bleak, poetic play reflects the savage contrasts of contemporary Russian society where rich and poor, the beautiful and the immoral coexist as a matter of fact.

Ivan and the Dogs was originally written for radio, and the Catalan stage version, directed by Pau Carrió, keeps things simple; performed as a monologue on an otherwise empty stage, a ripped black bin liner is the only prop and the city is evoked in soundscape, enhancing the fairy tale-like quality of Ivan’s childlike narration.

Yet the strength of this production lies in its refusal to overplay the pathos, reminding us that this is a play about survival. Pol López’s buoyant, howling Ivan is an unidealistic vision of a child as more than an innocent victim of adult cruelty. As a four-year-old who has fled from an abusive household, Ivan is already accustomed to violent living, and his fierce loyalty to the dogs is both a consequence and a confirmation of his deep mistrust of human beings. In this sense, Ivan draws a parallel with the other victims and predators in the play – those abused and abandoned who act out of a form of bestial necessity, and who provoke in us as much fear as compassion.

Ivan i els Gossos (Ivan and the Dogs) with Pol López / Pau Carrió directs
Ivan i els Gossos
at Teatre Lliure in Gràcia, Barcelona
NEW PERFORMANCES SET:
January 18 and 25 and February 1 and 8, 2013
The play is in intermediate Catalan

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