With his Olivier award nominations for his smash-hit play Misty, Arinzé Kene is no stranger to writing hard-hitting, honest and powerful plays about inner-city life. Good Dog takes a younger, more innocent experience as we follow a boy growing up in London and discovering himself.
Simply believing that by being good, good things will happen to him, his naivety is soon shattered as his experiences growing up at school push him to the edge. He puts up with the school bullying, tough home life and neighbourhood drama. Looking at the ‘smoking boys’ and ‘what-what girls’ he looks at where their lives are headed and strives for a better life. But when he realises enough is enough, he betrays his good-hearted nature and ends up taking the wrong path in life.
Kwaku Mills’ takes on the challenging role of this boy, performing a mammoth monologue that spans over two hours. But time slips away as he brings a real authenticity to the role, gripping the audience from start to finish with his storytelling. Not only does he encapsulate with his delivery, but you literally watch him grow throughout the performance. Opening the show as a wide-eyed youngster with big dreams, when he discovers the complexity of growing up he changes in character.
The way he talks about his neighbourhood is executed brilliantly as Kene’s writing infuses your imagination to vividly picture this street in your mind as Mills narrates his story. Whether it’s ‘Gandhi’ the corner shopkeeper battling with abuse whilst just trying to please his father, or Desmond the estate bully who is after Mills’ character throughout. These characters come alive through Kene’s language and Mills’ commanding storytelling.
Good Dog tackles tough themes of racial tension, the class system and urban conflict through the eyes of someone growing up. It’s a play that packs a real punch and Kwaku Mills’ performance really is one of a kind.
On at Birmingham Rep until 9 March, tickets and information can be found on their website.