Bard Not Worse Than His Bite
Local dog 'Munk' makes his stage debut in Two Gentlemen of Verona
A local dog is set to become an overnight star as the latest cast member of Shakespeare's Two Gentlemen of Verona, opening tonight (April 30) at ArtsEd. Munk, who lives in Chiswick, is a 12-year old Australian Kelpie making his first professional appearance and seems to have taken to his new career with enthusiasm.
The cast and production crew say Munk is "a natural" and they are confident he will rise to the occasion in front of a live audience. In the play, which is directed by Trevor Nunn and features third-year ArtsEd students, Munk takes on the role of Crab a troublesome pet owned by Launce, servant to leading character Proteus. The role calls for Launce, played by Philip Tomlin, to appear onstage with his dog by his side. As Crab is a very disobedient pet, Launce frequently has to take the blame for his pet's misdemeanours, ranging from stealing pies, to peeing under the table.
Munk and Philip Tomlin (Launce). Image: Bob Workman
Philip Tomlin says he was a little worried when he was told he would be sharing the stage with Munk. "I was a bit nervous to begin with to be honest as I'm not a dog person. In fact all we ever had at home was a rabbit, so I've no dog experience. but I've been taking him to the park and I've tried to bond with him so that we'll have some stage chemistry. I've had to stop other people playing with him as we don't want him running off stage or into the wings at the wrong time.
"It's a comic role really and what I have to do is walk on stage leading Crab (Munk) and he is supposed to sit there looking bored while I talk. I find he responds to me if I whistle at him or if I stand up or start walking, he follows me. I have him on the lead the whole time, just in case he might decide to wander off.
"Munk is such a lovely dog, he's getting a lot of attention. He makes everyone smile and I think the audience will really enjoy seeing him on stage with me."
Munk, Philip Tomlin (Launce) and Razak Osman (Speed)
Munk, who is owned by Bonnie Telford, and who lived in Australia and France before settling in Chiswick, has shown himself to be a real trooper despite the demands of rehearsals.
Bonnie says she is very excited "and quite proud of him". She got Munk as a puppy in Melbourne, Australia, when she was travelling and living abroad in 2009. Bonnie and her nine-year old son will be cheering Munk on from the audience.
She describes Munk as a well-trained dog with a lovely nature. He hasn't had any previous acting or stage training but the opportunity to appear in Two Gentlemen of Verona arose when the first dog chosen for the part had stage fright and a replacement had to be found quickly. When Bonnie heard ArtsEd needed a dog for the play, she sent in a photograph and the production team, led by director Trevor Nunn, thought Munk looked just right for the part.
It is Trevor Nunn's first time to direct Two Gentlemen of Verona, despite his having directed most of the Shakespeare canon. The play will be performed in repertory in the Andrew Lloyd Webber Foundation Theatre from 30 April-12 May 2015. Tickets are selling out fast.
Trevor Nunn (he was knighted in 2002), was the youngest ever Artistic Director of the Royal Shakespeare Company, directing over thirty productions. He was also a Director of the National Theatre and is a local resident and a patron of ArtsEd. He said recently; "I think the Two Gentlemen of Verona is Shakespeare’s play about adolescence, about teenage love and growing sexual awareness. So I have been looking to find a situation where that interpretive take on the play can be fully explored."
Despite the fact that actors are often advised never to perform with animals and children, Philip Tomlin says he is confident all will go well with him and his four-legged co-star. "I'm keeping a few treats in my pocket for him, just in case he gets fazed by being in front of an audience," he says.
Who knows, if all goes well the offers could well come flooding in for Munk. He could have a glittering career ahead, a starring role in Bonio and Juliet, or Twelfth Bite, Love's Labrador's Lost or even Collieiolanus!
Booking at www.artsed.co.uk and by phone 0845 504 6456
April 30, 2015