A Dog’s Tale review – quirky musical takes Crufts for a walk

In many ways, Mikron’s touring model is ideally suited to this not-quite-post-pandemic summer. Taking pint-sized shows to venues that are often outdoors, reaching communities that are otherwise ill-served by theatres, the company offers an accessible reintroduction to live performance after a year in which theatre buildings have mostly been closed. And this year’s quartet of actors are clearly thrilled to be back in front of audiences, bringing infectious enthusiasm to their latest performance.

Unfortunately, Poppy Hollman’s quirky musical look at the history of Crufts struggles to sustain that energy. In classic Mikron style, A Dog’s Tale delves into a very British institution, combining fictional storylines at the present-day dog show with titbits from its past. Shy but sweet Linda (a charming Rachel Benson) races around the exhibition centre after her beloved rescue dog, Gary, interspersed with appearances from the show’s founder, Charles Cruft (James McLean). These shifts back and forth in time are often clunky, while Hollman’s script seems unsure what to make of Crufts. Is it purely a money-making exercise, an exploitation of the show dogs, or a simple celebration of humanity’s best friend?

There are some wonderfully silly moments scattered throughout Rachel Gee’s production. The second half opens with a goofy musical battle between dogs and cats, in which the performers flip in an instant from tail-wagging loyalty to feline detachment. Elsewhere, there’s a gloriously hammy impression of Queen Victoria and some fun gags at the expense of the more ridiculous elements of dog shows. But at more than two hours, A Dog’s Tale stretches its material thinly. There are elements to enjoy, but the show doesn’t quite hang together.