Theatre: The Little Dog Laughed

Garrick Theatre

On Tuesday night, we went to see the Garrick Theatre production of Douglas Carter Beane’s The Little Dog Laughed.

The Little Dog Laughed is about a rising Hollywood star Mitchell (Rupert Friend) who in the words of his agent “suffers from a slight recurring case of homosexuality”.  He meets rent boy Alex (Harry Lloyd) and their lives are turned somewhat upside down when they both fall for each other despite both asserting that they are not gay.  The play is set against the backdrop of Hollywood and homosexuality and explores all of the double standards and difficulties with coming out in show business.  There is a fantastic quote by Colin Firth in the programme which just about sums it up:

“If you’re a straight actor who takes on the role of a gay man, it’s obviously not the same as being one in this business”.

The Little Dog Laughed was written by Douglas Carter Beane who also wrote To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar, a 1995 film starring Patrick Swayze and Wesley Snapes.  It first opened off-Broadway at the Second Stage Theatre in 2006. 

The play is narrated by Mitchell’s morally challenged agent Diane (played by Tamsin Greig) who has such classic lines as "A writer with the final cut? I'd rather give firearms to small children”.  It is no secret really that I am a massive fan of Harry Lloyd and have spent the past three years watching each and every one of his plays but it is Greig who absolutely steals the show and her acting, wardrobe and personality all fit the role perfectly.  In her role as Diane, Greig superbly breaks through the fourth wall, allowing the audience into the world of Hollywood agents, actors and writers and she did it very well indeed.  She was incredibly comfortable chatting and winking to the audience one minute and then diving right back into her encounters with the rest of the cast the next.

The Little Dog Laughed

Rupert Friend plays the drunken, privileged and somewhat sheltered Mitchell really well.  While I tend not to question how characters were written (as it is generally a fixed factor when putting on a play), I have to wonder at a rising Hollywood star who doesn’t get the significance of coming out to the world and the effect that could have on his career.  In the end, his naiveté is what trips him up though.

In an equal sense, Harry Lloyd’s Alex just doesn’t seem to understand the dynamic of his relationship with his girl pal Ellen (played by Gemma Arterton) and the effect that his growing relationship with Mitchell will have on her.  He does, however, utter my favourite line of the play while trying to get a point across to Mitchell: “God, talking to you is like sewing a button on cottage cheese”.

As far as rather shallow, clueless roles go, Friend and Lloyd do as well as they can do but they have both taken on much better roles in the past.  The one thing they do both handle extremely well is the intimacy and affection that develops between their two characters.  There is a fair bit of nudity in the play (with Harry Lloyd being fully nude at one point) and both actors were professional and convincing in their roles.

Gemma Arterton was far less convincing and you got the idea that she was trying to inflate her supporting role somewhat as the character definitely shrinks in comparison to the other three.  She seemed to posture a lot and to shout her lines rather than speak them with meaning and emotion.  She is quite inexperienced in theatre though and this certainly didn’t ruin the play.  You have to wonder though if those in casting didn’t foresee that she would be completely overshadowed by Greig (or perhaps that was the point?)

The Little Dog Laughed bilboard

This production of The Little Dog Laughed was directed by Jamie Lloyd and I must say he made good use of the space and actors.  There is one invisible character, so to speak, who appears in one scene and speaks on the phone but is not played by anyone.  I thought this was really well portrayed by the cast and well managed by the director.

The set was designed by Soutra Gilmour who received an Olivier Award nomination for Best Set Design in 2009.  While Gilmour’s sets are often dark and almost sinister, this was stark, bare and completely white but the minimalist set worked in this play. 

The play itself is incredibly funny and highly entertaining.  It doesn’t provide any grand answers to the problems it identifies but seems to focus more on the situation at hand and how that plays out.  The audience was laughing along raucously at the numerous one-liners and there was much enthusiastic clapping and cheers of “bravo!” at the end. 

All in all it was a fun night out and I’d certainly recommend the play for people seeking a light-hearted comedy experience.

The Little Dog Laughed is playing at the Garrick Theatre until 10 April 2010.  There are really good prices available on tickets at and we got tickets for £29.50 each from

Watch The Little Dog Laughed trailer:

Concert: ShockWaves NME Awards Tour 2010

Brixton Academy NME is the biggest alternative music publication in the UK.  Each year they showcase some of the biggest up and coming indie alternative bands in the run up to the NME Awards.  This year The Maccabees, Bombay Bicycle Club, The Big Pink and The Drums hit the road on a nationwide tour and I caught them at The Brixton Academy in London.

The Drums

The Drums are a post-punk band hailing from Brooklyn, New York and it is likely that you would recognise their song “Let’s Go Surfing”.  They are currently on a sold out tour of UK, Ireland and mainland Europe and will be supporting Florence and the Machine on their nationwide tour starting in May.

The Drums have a sound reminiscent of the punk and ska bands of the early eighties but I found them to be pretty average and unoriginal. I had not even heard of them before the night but certainly won’t be rushing off to buy any of their albums.  Most importantly, I have never seen a bunch of people look so uncomfortable on a stage before.  I’ve seen cheesy robotic dancing before and singers playing air drums but it is clear that The Drums have a long way to go as a band before they make that look cool.

The DrumsThe Big Pink 

The Big Pink

The Big Pink are the reason we went to the Shockwaves NME Awards Tour this year and it is safe to say that I am a massive fan of their album A Brief History of Love which I reviewed on BlogCritics in January.  The Big Pink arrived on stage with lights and explosions and their whole set was energetic, frenetic and loud.  Their songs were much heavier than they had sounded on their CD and it was a manic mash up of squealing guitars and noise.

I imagine that this signals a heavier direction for their new album but it could also be overcompensation for the fact that most of their music is pre-recorded and sampled.  That meant that vocalist Robbie Furze was screaming his vocals and grinding his guitar while we debated amongst ourselves whether the bassist and drummer weren’t in fact miming. 

I am always happy for indie alternative bands to take on a heavier, louder sound; in fact, the noisier the better as far as I am concerned.  But this was not a great performance.  I’ve seen many bands that use heavy sampling including The Prodigy, Dan le Sac vs Scroobius Pip and Faithless and it is so difficult to put on a great show in front of a massive audience when the majority of your band members are doing little on the actual night but miming.  The Big Pink didn’t really get it right on Saturday night.

Bombay Bicycle Club

Bombay Bicycle Club hail from north London and took their name from a string of curry restaurants in the area.  I have no idea what I expected from them before I heard them play on Saturday night as I had barely even heard of them but wasn’t in the least bit interested in listening to any of their music.

I certainly didn’t expect to have them rock my socks off.  Seconds into their first song, I found myself debating whether to rush off to the shops the next day or order their album through Amazon.  Thankfully, such debates were soon put out of my mind as I got caught up in their energetic, enthusiastic set. 

The one thing they did prove was that the problems with the previous two acts weren’t down to bad acoustics in the venue because their whole sound and lights show was fabulous.  Jack Steadman has a fantastically unique voice and the band are confident and exciting on stage.  Oh, and they can dance.  Perhaps the guys from The Drum need to take some dancing lessons from them. 

The crowd went mad for them and I would have to say that Bombay Bicycle Club were the best band of the night.  It is not often that I am won over to unknown bands during a live performance but they were that good.

Bombay Bicycle Club Maccabees

The Maccabees

The Maccabees played a massive fifteen song set on Saturday night and gave one of the most impressive live performances I have seen in years.  The Maccabees are from south London but are currently based in London.  They have five full time members but their incredible show included three musicians on brass instruments and at one stage Edwyn Collins joined them to sing “Rip It Up”. 

The Maccabees use the whole stage and everything from their backdrop to their set up and lighting is absolutely professional and first class.  I honestly found myself widening my eyes to try drink everything in. 

Like with Bombay Bicycle Club, the sound was perfect and the crowd went absolutely mad for The Maccabees.  They didn’t quite have the impact on me that Bombay Bicycle Club did but that is not to say that they weren’t brilliant.  They were really good and I’d definitely go see them again sometime.

After a rocky start, the ShockWaves NME Awards Tour 2010 was a huge success and Bombay Bicycle Club and The Maccabees certainly made up for a slightly shaky start.  The best thing about the O2 Brixton Academy of course is that after the show, we were able to nip into Nandos for some chicken burgers thus avoiding the British tradition of the post-night out dodgy vindaloo.

Visit London This Summer

Updated January 2020

Many people think that London is expensive but there are so many free things to do in this city and special deals to be found that I thought I’d show you how it is possible to do London on any budget. 

My number one tip: never pay full price for anything.

Tower Bridge, London

Getting to London

The first site I ever visit when booking long haul flights is  Their layout is super easy to use and they will bring up an easy grid for you comparing the price of direct and non-direct flights over several airlines.  We used them to book both trips back to South Africa last year.

Tip: once you find a flight on Expedia, we sure to check on the airline’s website as booking direct from an airline can often be cheaper.

By the way, there are four major airports in London and they roughly correspond to the four compass points: Stansted (North), London City(East), Heathrow (West) and Gatwick (South).  You would not believe how centrally located London City is and how easy an airport it is to travel through.  The best thing is to book an airport closest to your hotel if you can.

For all of our package holidays from the UK, we use and have not been able to beat their deals.

Finding a Place to Stay in London has fantastic deals on saving money in the UK. I’ll tell you a bit more about a little later on as they are quite famous in our office and we simply don’t go out shopping or to a restaurant without first checking on their site.

Couch Surfing, and Hostel Bookers are great sites to visit for those of you on an absolute budget.  Prices range from free to the ridiculously inexpensive but obviously staying in a hotel will always be better.

London Underground

Getting Around London

If you are in London for more than one day, I would absolutely recommend getting an Oyster card or Contactless card to travel around as many buses are cashless. 

Tip: the best thing to do with Oyster / Contactless is to travel with pay-as-you-go.  If you hit the daily Travelcard limit, it will stop charging you but it is better than splashing out on a Travelcard that you land up not using.

Tip: if you are visiting from overseas, make sure you won’t be charged additional currency conversion fees to use your Contactless credit card – this can be avoided by buying pounds sterling in your home country.

If you are visiting friends or family in London and they have an annual Gold Travelcard make sure you make use of the offer of a 34% discount on train travel and Travelcards in the Network area. Gold Travelcard holders can travel with up to three other adults who will get the discount too. 

Eating Out in London

Like I said earlier, we have a firm tradition in our office that we never go out the latest restaurant vouchers at  The specials include 2 for 1 mains at Prezzo and 3 Course Set Menu from £12.95 at Pizza Express.

The Evening Standard ran an article on the 100 cheap eats London: Best meals and dinners for under £10 and TimeOut did the same with The 100 best cheap eats in London.

Wetherspoons can be found all over the city and they offer a fabulous and ridiculously inexpensive breakfast, lunch and dinner menu. 

Tower of London

Discounted Theatre in London

I have four tips for obtaining discounted theatre tickets in London.  You can visit London Theatre Tickets to get the best possible deals on theatre tickets or check out the offers at The Evening Standard’s Theatre Club.  You can also do my favourite trick and Google “2 for 1 tickets to…” or you can catch the tube to Leicester Square and visit the last minute ticket booths there.

Touring Around London

If travelling around all day on a London Bus all day without a tour guide is not your idea of fun, you can book a tour on the Original London Bus Tour which is the famous open topped bus.

You can also take a Thames Clipper which is a small boat that goes up and down the Thames.  I blogged about our glorious ride on a Thames Clipper last year.

    London Eye  
Visiting Attractions in London

You actually wouldn’t believe how many free places there are to visit in London.  The British Museum, Science Museum, Tate Modern, Tate Britain, Museum of London, Imperial War Museum London, Design Museum, Natural History Museum, The National Gallery and The National Portrait Gallery are all free to get into!!  Is it any wonder I am determined to maintain my status as an eternal tourist in this magical city?

When I went to New York, I bought the CityPass there and I can’t begin to tell you how wonderful it was in terms of saving money and skipping queues. Well, here we have The London Pass which gives you entry to London’s top attractions at a great discount plus allows you to skip queues plus you get a free guidebook too!  Attractions include Tower of London, London Zoo, London Bridge Experience and Tombs, The Britain at War Experience and Windsor Castle. 

Tip: Make sure you’re not using your London Pass to visit free attractions!!  They list a lot of the free museums above on their site but they really do offer you fabulous value for money on the paid attractions.

Their website also offers dining and shopping offers, free cinema entry and an itinerary planning service.

My absolute favourite site for 2 for 1 specials is the National Rail Days Out Guide.  Here you can get 2-for-1 entry to Madame Tussauds, The Harry Potter London Bus Tour (oh, wow) and The Tower of London as well as a host of other specials on hotels, theatre, events and attractions.  The catch?  You have to both travel by rail and you can’t use an Oyster card.  (Oyster used to have separate specials but I can’t find them for love or money now). 

Top tip: plan your deal well to take the most advantage of discounted rail fares, special offers, free attractions and bulk buying such as the London Pass.  I can help you if you email me where you’ll be staying, how many days you’ll be here and what you have to see and do while you’re here.  Having said that, it is much more fun planning your own travel itinerary!