The Outside Dog and The Hand of God
Bridge Theatre, London ★★★★✩
ALAN BENNETT is almost single-handedly getting arts-lovers through this pandemic. The revival of his Talking Heads monologues has been a highlight of the BBC’s Covid-19 programming, while the remounting of eight of those pieces at the Bridge Theatre is among the few bright lights in an otherwise largely empty theatre schedule.
Kristin Scott Thomas and Line Of Duty star Rochenda Sandall are the latest to reprise their roles under directors Jonathan Kent and Nadia Fall; both were impeccable on the small screen — and fabulous here too.
Sandall plays Marjory in the Yorkshire Ripper-inspired The Outside Dog.
She is trapped in a fearful marriage to a slaughterman who each night goes on long walks with the dog and, on returning, always washes his trousers.
We know what’s going on long before she admits it to herself. Instead, she channels her mounting terror into obsessive cleaning rituals, even putting paper on the toilet seat when a policeman, investigating her husband, pays a visit.
The horror outside the marriage is bad enough, but Sandall’s tightly coiled performance shows how the horror within it has a darkness all its own. After he is arrested and acquitted she quietly replaces damning evidence that she found in the dog kennel.
Scott Thomas, meanwhile, mines every seam of vinegary comedy as snobby Celia in The Hand of God. The antiques shop owner can date a picture frame at 20 paces. Yet her pride comes a cropper when she sells a priceless sketch for a song.
An immaculate home counties superciliousness is Celia’s stock demeanour, yet Scott Thomas’s wryly self-aware performance reveals the depths of insecurity and loneliness beneath. Hard to think of a better way to spend an hour.