Melbourne is a diverse place, you need only cross town to experience different cultures, diverse communities and the most awesome of culinary delights. So it’s fitting that Melbourne Festival as a celebration of this incredible and diverse place we call home; should offer up Two Dogs, a work that speak directly to our Chinese community, though provides something that is as special and beautiful to those outside of this. Having our city play host to a work of this lineage is of vital importance, perhaps not so much for the general public but for other makers, as the work, its narrative and its structure flies in the face of what is more often presented here in Melbourne.
As a whole, it is a strong performance, held together in part by the onstage camaraderie shared between performers Liu Xiaoye and Wang Yin. The very fibers of this work speak from a different place, time and language. Following on from a long tradition of Chinese theatre, Two Dogs is a fable of sorts, truthful in its delivery, and not reliant on the elements more often employed in contemporary theatre. More so it relies on the perfect and intrinsic delivery of two performers that each possess a well tuned, highly physical and slap stick style comedy. Also of note is the musical interludes that help break the dynamism, while at times adding, as only music can, an emotional hook that pulls audience further inward.
In direct response to time and place, are some perfectly executed and brilliantly truthful local iconography’s that as much draws incomprehensible parallels between; as they take the piss out of Melbourne, and Australian culture more broadly. They rightly point out that we live in a place where our prime minister is only temporary all while barbecues have become a formal occasion in themselves.
You do at times have to battle with this work, correcting much of the surtitles that fell out of sync with the performance and cutting the run time are perhaps two remedies that could be found. As a result, traction was at times lost with the experience becoming a little confused. Though these are minor criticisms, there is indeed some joy to be found when one of only a few non-Mandarin speakers in the theatre, watching the delight on other peoples faces while you yourself are happily lost in translation. We need to do more to encourage and support this kind of performance, not only by ways of creating regular opportunities for international companies to present in Melbourne, but by building awareness, providing an education and encouraging critical discourse founded on the benefits of cultural exchange, creativity and immersion. Two Dogs has finished its season.