Tim Crouch: Truth’s a Dog Must to Kennel review – virtual King Lear

·2 min read
<span>Photograph: Murdo MacLeod/The Guardian</span>
Photograph: Murdo MacLeod/The Guardian

On the back wall there is a notice saying: “Please rinse and sanitise.” Over to the right a poster from Equity, the union for performers and creative practitioners, talks about “creating safe spaces”. It includes the number for a harassment helpline. There is no decor and the house lights are up. “It’s just this,” says Tim Crouch on his empty stage. “It’s just us.”

Or just us and the virtual reality headset the writer and actor insists on wearing. The gizmo is his portal to another theatre, one grander and more ornate than our own, where a production of King Lear is at its midway point.

Crouch describes the other audience he can see, as well as the set and the actors. He pays particular note of the Fool, who is the only one ready to exit the ego-driven madness in Shakespeare’s tragedy. He is also fascinated by Edgar, who uses the power of imagination to convince his blinded father Gloucester he is standing at a cliff edge.

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For Crouch, in a post-pandemic world where the narcissists and despots are in control, it is as if we ourselves are at the turbulent centre of King Lear, searching for those old-fashioned values of decency and respect. Somehow locked into all that is the idea of theatre itself; the possibility of a group of people gathering just to listen, to empathise, to reflect, with nothing more than a man and a headset to put ideas in our heads.

In despondent mood (although his jokes are many and good), Crouch is in mourning for his art form. Theatre’s time has passed, he says, and supporting it is “like keeping your dead mum in the freezer to claim the pension”. His own show, a heady combination of chat, storytelling and purposely wobbly standup, contradicts his own thesis. Theatre has a way of reinventing itself and Truth’s a Dog Must to Kennel, ironically, demonstrates the case.

Towards the end, he makes a pitch to deliver the most obscene monologue on the fringe. It is filthy in its implications, offensive in its lurid descriptions, and yet the rudest phrase he uses is “you know”. The rest is in our imaginations.