Dead Dad Dog @ Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh

The revival of John McKay's 1988 play retains its comic chops and its familial chemistry

Review by Gabriel von Spreckelsen | 07 Nov 2023
  • Dead Dad Dog

Weather recently has been challenging: wet, windy, cold. Fortunately, Dead Dad Dog is well worth braving the weather, and the Traverse has a bar with all the tonic you could need.

The year is 1985. The songs are Don’t Stop Believin’, Don’t You Forget About Me, Hungry Like the Wolf. All epochal songs carving right to the centre of existence. Lucky for us, because existence is a key theme in the play. 

Eck (Angus Miller) has an exciting day ahead of him. The improbably steep auditorium of the Traverse makes spectators feel rather pleasingly like a jury for his life – which is just as well, because the ghost of his Dad, William (Liam Brennan), turns up with the comic caveat that if he is more than fifteen feet away from Eck, both are electrocuted. The consequence is William observing how Eck lives his life, twelve years after Willie died, with all the fatherly judgement that entails.

This is the sort of play which makes you put down your reviewer’s notepad. Eck seems a bit lonely onstage by himself, so when Willie arrives, the tale takes off. Miller and Brennan have excellent familial chemistry and make for a great culture clash double-act (exemplified by their baggy versus flared suits). John McKay’s script has aged well: the jokes still land and the points still resonate, even if there isn’t actually a dog onstage to coo at (sad face). In terms of deadness and dadness, it ticks all the boxes. The set is simply the most versatile chair I’ve ever seen – a favourite moment is the visual irony of Eck giving up his seat on the bus to a ghost. It’s such a shame the sequel was cancelled for this performance, because one day in the life of these characters felt like too little.

Dead Dad Dog, Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh, run ended