New International Encounter (NIE), My Life with the Dogs

Review in Issue 21-4 | Winter 2009

Strangers in the Night is something of a theme tune in New International Encounter’s latest production. But Frank Sinatra’s twinkly blue eyes are also oceans away from the dark tale of My Life with the Dogs.

Four-year-old Ivan Mishukov lives in a small flat near Moscow, and is not welcome while his vodka-soaked mother and Uncle Boris ‘make the noises’. He runs away, eludes a paedophile, and (a true story) survives for two years living with wild street dogs. This is rich material for physical theatre. As well as a panting pack of dogs, the movement includes television broadcasts (an actor with a hollow set around his head), and tableau vivant images of the wayward mother and Boris caught red-handed.

The piece is set in 1995 and the political transition from communism is also felt (the Scorpions’ Winds of Change is another anthem). We see Ivan outside a sweetshop, looking at new fizzy drinks and chocolate, then dangerously lured away with a hot dog. Fairytale traditions combine with witty ensemble theatre devices and vibrant music. The audience are addressed directly, and it’s particularly funny when we are told to imagine a Mancunian actor in his forties as a child, or a 37-year-old who has just taken up jogging as a Russian policeman.

There are some similarities with previous NIE production The End of Everything Ever (the last work of a trilogy exploring early 20th century experiences) – both focus on a lost small child in a harsh adult world. Perhaps this just means that the company has a distinctive, haunting style, rather than getting stale. My Life with the Dogs starts a new trilogy that explores more recent European history.

Presenting Artists
Date Seen
  1. Aug 2009

This article in the magazine

Issue 21-4
p. 28