Collar

If you think coming out as gay or announcing any change from the heteronormative might be difficult, then try telling your parents and friends that you've just been accepted on a new government-funded programme that will allow you to convert your status as a human into that of a dog.

Burr’s approach is lighthearted and comedic throughout

In an age of gender fluidity the prospect of this transition seems less challenging than it might have been a few years ago. On hearing the news the response might be, “Oh really. Nothing would surprise me these days”. And so it is that we accept the premise in Collar, which was performed for one night only at the Bread and Roses Theatre, prior to its run at the Edinburgh Fringe.

Benji, delightfully played by Thomas Josef Burr in this solo play, eventually does have to face the family, and his best friend Will, who has very generously flown over from the USA, eager to hear the surprise news he’s been promised, only to be teased for a day or so before Benji reveals all. Procrastination is also the order of the day in regard to telling his family, but when he finally gets around to it we are treated to a household worthy of Llareggub. Burr’s Welsh accent, naturally muted, now flourishes in the portrayal of Nan, his dad, his sister and the neighbour. We also meet his pompous, old-school psychiatrist, who needs to make sure that Benji is of sound mind and clear intention, and the rather gorgeous and marginally seductive nurse who steers him through the preparations for the big day.

It’s a big decision that Benji has made, with irreversible consequences if he decides to go through with it. Thought about in more depth, this is clearly a drama that raises issues of mental health, but Collar is not a heavy play you’d put firmly in that category; rather it’s a revelation concerning obsessive, eccentric behaviour; the effects of being unable to form relationships; of disillusionment with humanity and of finding a way to reach one’s full potential and Burr’s approach is lighthearted and comedic throughout.

Before he says a word laughs are forthcoming as he opens, seated upright on a stool, like a playful puppy, making faces and gestures to a selection of famous doggy songs. It’s a thematic selection from across the years that pays tribute to the love affair between humans and canines and reveals just how many famous singers have lyricised about dogs. Thereafter, we are taken into his confidence in a warm and chatty manner that suggests he is already well on the road to becoming ‘a man’s best friend’.

There might be sad ending, or there might be a happy one. Burr did a children’s performance in Cardiff in which he specially adapted the conclusion. A post-show chat in London suggested a number of storylines that could satisfactorily round off the tale, so to speak. It’s a tribute to his and Hannah McLeod’s writing, his vibrant performance and her directorial subtlety that the show provokes the imagination to consider other possibilities, Whichever one they go for in Edinburgh, they almost certainly won't be barking up the wrong tree.

Reviews by Richard Beck

Marylebone Theatre

The Government Inspector

★★
Park Theatre / Park Theatre London

A Song of Songs

★★★★
The Lantern @ ACT

Six Characters in Search of Pirandello

★★★
Grania Dean Studio (Lantern Theatre @ ACT)

RANK.

★★★★
Multiple Venues

Far From Home Close To Love

★★★
Jermyn Street Theatre

Laughing Boy

★★★★

Since you’re here…

… we have a small favour to ask. We don't want your money to support a hack's bar bill at Abattoir, but if you have a pound or two spare, we really encourage you to support a good cause. If this review has either helped you discover a gem or avoid a turkey, consider doing some good that will really make a difference.

You can donate to the charity of your choice, but if you're looking for inspiration, there are three charities we really like.

Mama Biashara
Kate Copstick’s charity, Mama Biashara, works with the poorest and most marginalised people in Kenya. They give grants to set up small, sustainable businesses that bring financial independence and security. That five quid you spend on a large glass of House White? They can save someone’s life with that. And the money for a pair of Air Jordans? Will take four women and their fifteen children away from a man who is raping them and into a new life with a moneymaking business for Mum and happiness for the kids.
Donate to Mama Biashara now

Theatre MAD
The Make A Difference Trust fights HIV & AIDS one stage at a time. Their UK and International grant-making strategy is based on five criteria that raise awareness, educate, and provide care and support for the most vulnerable in society. A host of fundraising events, including Bucket Collections, Late Night Cabarets, West End Eurovision, West End Bares and A West End Christmas continue to raise funds for projects both in the UK and Sub-Saharan Africa.
Donate to Theatre MAD now

Acting For Others
Acting for Others provides financial and emotional support to all theatre workers in times of need through the 14 member charities. During the COVID-19 crisis Acting for Others have raised over £1.7m to support theatre workers affected by the pandemic.
Donate to Acting For Others now

Performances

Location

The Blurb

'So, I’ve decided to become a Golden Retriever. The Brad Pitt of dogs.' Benji's undergoing an operation that he’s pretty sure is going to make him happier than ever... and handsome... and hairy. But first, he needs to explain it to his family. And his best mate, Will. Collar questions what it means to be fully human and explores every possible meaning of what it means to be ‘man’s best friend'.

This is an exciting one-off preview of Collar before it makes its official premiere at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe ’23 this summer at theSpace on the Mile. 

Most Popular See More

Wicked

From £30.00

More Info

Find Tickets

Mamma Mia!

From £15.00

More Info

Find Tickets

The Book of Mormon

From £24.00

More Info

Find Tickets

The Mousetrap

From £30.00

More Info

Find Tickets

Matilda the Musical

From £24.00

More Info

Find Tickets

Back to the Future - The Musical

From £24.00

More Info

Find Tickets