For those not in the know, or without access to Google, Bummer and Lazarus seems like a strange title for a play. Named after two stray dogs who during the 1860’s roamed the streets of San Francisco, the pair were prodigious rat-catchers and the stuff of local legend. Here, Big Egg Theatre company imagine what it would be like if these animals were completely anthropomorphised and stuck in a cellar and desperate to get out. The show also comically poses existential questions about existence and the notions of time, thought and matter itself.
Bounding into the intimate space of AJ’s Coffee House are actors Jack Harrison and Dave Reeson as the titular dogs. Bummer appears old and curmudgeonly, yet acts with near infinite patience with the hyperactive but intellectually challenged Lazarus. The dogs have a problem – they somehow have found themselves trapped in a cellar with no food, and Bummer needs to hunt and eat before they both starve. Beyond this simple premise lies 45 minutes of intense cerebral discussion between the two, who fire off lines as quickly as machine gun fire. The show is exhausting yet exhilarating in equal measure.
The physicality of both actors is excellent, with Lazarus bounding around the stage manically and knocking off things like an excitable puppy who is keen to explore. Bummer on the other hand is much more measured, limping around the stage (likely due to an old battle scar) and calming Lazarus down. Their conversation lurches hilariously between the mundane and the profound, often within the space of a few lines. Lazarus is keen to understand everything and asks Bummer questions in quick fire which he is able to answer with varying degrees of success. A rapid explanation of particle physics is a mind boggling highlight of wit and delivery. The writing is clever, keen to remind us that they are dogs and not to allow them to move on or really gain any new understanding of life.
As a production, Bummer and Lazarus seems to take inspiration from Samuel Beckett’s work – Waiting for Godot in particular. It’s existential themes and cyclical nature feel similar in nature to Vladamir and Estragon’s infamous wait. It certainly feels like it is not the first time Bummer and Lazarus have found themselves in such a situation, and likely not the last. Occasionally the shows feels like it is stuck progressing at the same break-neck speed, leaving little space for changes in tone or mood. Yet the delivery of the lines at such a pace is flawless and leaves you racing to keep up with the thoughts of the canine duo. Humorous and full of wit, Bummer and Lazarus is an engaging examination of existentialism; through the eyes of a dog.
Bummer and Lazarus
AJ’s Coffee House
5th June 2018
Written by Jack Harrison
Performed by Dave Reeson and Charlie Norburn
Produced by Big Egg Theatre
Part of the Cardiff Fringe Theatre Festival – more information and tickets here.
Check out Big Egg’s website for more info about upcoming shows.