Dog Sees God: Confessions of a Teenage Block-head – The Peanuts kids are back… but not as you know them. When CB's dog contracts rabies, kills a “little yellow bird”, and has to be put down, he begins to question the existence of an afterlife.
Co-directors Byron Bache and Emma Caldwell have set out to fulfil the mission at Boutique Theatre which is "to produce honest, intimate, innovative and provocative theatre and to develop emerging artists." Caldwell tells me that Dog Sees God: Confessions of a Teenage Blockhead fits into this vision for this up-and-coming company, and is an exciting, fresh and contemporary work that explores some pretty important and relevant themes such as bullying, homosexuality and what it means to be an outsider. Plus it re-imagines the Peanuts characters as teenagers which is also a lot of fun.
Boutique Theatre started as a little collaborative effort between Caldwell and co-Artistic Director, Tegan Jones back in 2012. Since their first show, Edges in 2012 they have re-shaped and re-launched the company with the aim of being a regular contributor to the independent theatre scene in Melbourne. "Boutique Theatre is passionate about producing high quality productions, performing new or rarely seen works and developing emerging actors, designers & directors. It’s a really exciting time for us," Caldwell says.
As the new kids on the block, Boutique Theatre are hoping to build a really diverse audience base with this play. "The themes of the play are really universal and anyone who can remember their teenage years will be able to relate to the issues faced by the characters in the play," explains Caldwell. "The fact that the piece’s roots are in the Peanuts comics has a lot of appeal, and when you add that to the fact that the author Bert V. Royal also wrote the hilarious teen film Easy A you’ve got a pretty great play to sell. For me the real selling point in this piece is the wonderful cast that bring these characters to life so beautifully."
A great start for the company, and this show, was the attendance of an unprecedented number of auditionees, who were also extremely talented. "We were really spoiled for choice with the quality of the people we had audition and probably could have cast the show 4 times over," admits Caldwell. "Making the final decisions around casting was challenging, but we think we’ve definitely found the right blend of actors who work brilliantly as an ensemble."
Christopher Welldon plays CB and tells me that the idea of writing a play that attempts to inject humanity and depth into a kids comic strip is, it has to be said, crazy.
"But that's exactly what Dog Sees God does. The weird combination of Bert V Royal's writing and people's endless love for Peanuts make it work. I've always identified with Charlie Brown in a way that I assumed reflected poorly on my self-esteem levels. Being able to explore the character in this play has helped: I don't feel quite so conflicted about over-identifying with the weird little bald kid. The worst/best part about working on this show so far is the rest of the cast. I didn't know any of them going in, and they are all intimidatingly talented. They're also all really nice, and rather attractive. It's infuriating.”
Rohan Mirchandaney (Beethoven) is grateful for the experience this production is affording: “For me the process has been a great reminder that I am forever learning, about theatre, character and my own capabilities as an actor. After rehearsals I need a moment to realise the impact that the session has had on me. Whether it be reflections regarding intimate scenes with CB (played by Christopher Welldon), the emotional rollercoaster Beethoven experiences in each scene and trying to find his place in the world, Dog Sees God has pushed me to experience a completely different life and develop an appreciation for the types of people we may never come across ourselves.”
“Working with a completely brand new cast and crew has really allowed me to shed the skin of previous performance traits I've held on to and find something that compliments the production. I'm glad to have learned detailed intricacies about human interaction and explored these ideas with both Byron and Emma our directors in a collaborative working environment united by the same goal.”
Nicholas Rhodes (Matt) also praise the co-directors for their insights and artistic sensibilities: "Both Emma & Byron understand the interplay between the play's sense of humour and it's more poignant moments. They have allowed the actors the freedom to explore both these aspects. They have actively shaped these explorations to elicit the most human of performances."
Dog Sees God: Confessions of a Teenage Block-head is certainly a contemporary take on a slice of yesteryear, including all the ingredients for teen angst being pushed to its very limits but for Caldwell its more than that – its the building reputation of a theatre company.
"We’re a new, young, fresh theatre company who are intent on contributing greatly to the Victorian Arts sector. We’re all about supporting up and coming artists both onstage & off and it would be great for the Theatrepeople community to get behind us. We’ve chosen a wickedly funny, poignant play to kick off our 2014 season and the cast is made up of some of Melbourne’s best young actors. What’s not to like?"
March 20 – 29