The Mikron Theatre Company, founded in 1972, is a theatre company from the Yorkshire village of Marsden, who tour by canal boat and road, appearing at 130 different venues.These venues are often those that other theatre companies would not consider using, such as in allotments, in restaurants and at RNLI lifeboat stations.
In 2020, the company were not able to perform as they had wished, but they are making up for lost time this year. In their first show of 2021, A Dog’s Tale, the Mikron Theatre Company are delivering a musical comedy, written by Poppy Hollman, that dives into the enduring bond between people and their dogs through the lens of the Crufts dog show.
I was fortunate enough to watch the show on its opening night at Slung Low in Holbeck this week.
On arrival at the Holbeck, I locked up my bike and was shown to my seat. The show was being performed outside, and so the audience were seated in what is normally the car park of the Holbeck. Whilst we waited for the show to start, as we were not able to mingle or move around due to COVID restrictions, families that had brought nibbles with them set about munching, and others ordered drinks, which were brought to them by the friendly staff on site.
I read through my programme and got a better understanding of Mikron – a theatre company that previously I had known little about. I loved to learn that Mikron performs predominantly British plays that explore British issues.
The performance started at 6pm on Saturday 5th June, on what was a lovely, sunny evening. I was sitting on my own, due to COVID restrictions, which was a little weird. But I had a great view and it was warm and sunny, so I was content.
After a great opening song, the play began by giving a brief history of Crufts and the story of how its founder Charles Cruft (played by James McLean), wanted to become the ‘Greatest Showman in Dogdom’. The cast of four then jumped from Victorian Crufts to the modern day, telling the tale of Gary, the wayward rescue dog, and his exploits with his owner Linda (played by Rachel Benson). Entwined in the story was Daniel, an animal welfare protester (played by Thomas Cotran), who wanted to help Linda and Gary and was passionate about preventing animal cruelty.
Throughout the show there were lots of fantastic songs and set pieces that had the audience laughing and clapping along. I loved the clever lyrics in the songs and the well thought through use of props. Although light-hearted, the show did cover some important points, such as the challenges of inbreeding of pedigree dogs, the use of puppy farms and the history of cheating at dog shows. In a previous interview, Poppy, the writer of the play, said that she spent a couple of days at Crufts and it was there that she discovered suspicions around judging bias, but also realised how important dogs are to the lives of so many people.
A Dog’s Tale was a great story with brilliant music. I was amazed by the versatility of the cast, as there were over 20 characters written in to the play, but they were played by a cast of only four. I loved how each member of the cast was able to switch between characters with ease, and how they all picked up different instruments when needed. I thought Elizabeth Robin (who played Margo, a pedigree dog owner, and others) was particularly impressive as she seemingly jumped between characters, accents and instruments at the blink of an eye.
A Dog’s Tale was the first professional commission for Poppy Hollman, and in my opinion, it was fantastically well written. The play was directed by Rachel Gee –the first play for her with Mikron and designed by Celia Perkins. The music, which really brought the performance to life, was composed and directed by Rebekah Hughes. The show is touring the UK by canal, river, and road between 5 June and 19 September 2021. For further information on A Dog’s Tale visit https://mikron.org.uk/shows/a-dogs-tale
Feature photograph of the performance under way by Gemma Bridge.