review: Wild Dogs (x2)

23 10 2008

I was in Toronto last weekend to see the stage adaption of Helen Humphrey’s Wild Dogs.  The story focuses on six people who gather at the end of the woods trying to call back their dogs – dogs that have turned wild and joined a pack in the woods.

I hadn’t read the book, but when CanStage announced its season it sounds very good and with my new found admiration for all things written by Helen Humphreys and when I saw the four star review in The Star I knew I had to go.   Luckily the Artsy Mama was heading into the big, bad city to the Sewing show and I convinced her to go Saturday instead of Sunday so we could drive together and I could catch a matinee.

It was a fantastic show.  The characters talked mainly about their feelings and what was occurring rather than with each other, and though the Globe reviewer wasn’t keen on this technique, I found it really let the poetry of the piece come forward.  The play had some of the most achingly beautiful images and phrases in it and I left the theatre determined to get hold of the book and start reading right away – this in spite of my determination not to buy any more books.

It seems the book-buying-Gods were on my side that day.  Walking along Front Street I book into a discount book store, the kind that usually wouldn’t stock anything overly literary, and yet there was a copy of Wild Dogs, just waiting for me.  I snatched it up, headed down the street to Second Cup and started it within five minutes of purchasing.

What I was pleasantly surprised to discover is how faithful the adaptation was.  The words were pulled right from Humphrey’s book and the primary change seems to be re-ordering.  In the book the story is told from all the character’s perspective and it is in the play as well, but by the end of the first character’s narrative in the book you know the end result whereas on the stage the narratives of all the characters are interspersed and the plot builds chronologically.

The book is quite haunting and the language just as beautiful as it was on stage.  Almost every page holds a poetic gem and I’ve never turned down quite so many corners as I did on this volume.  I want to share some of my favourite passages, but I fear that it will give too much away and I don’t know if they will be as powerful out of context.  There is something about the book that takes you in whole, and I highly, highly recommend it.

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2 responses

13 11 2008
Melanie

What a treat to see this play, and then the serendipity of finding a copy immediately! I love Helen Humphreys – I just heard her read from “Coventry” and I really like her use of language; very poetic, as you mention.

13 11 2008
sparrow52

It was very lucky to find it – and in a discount store that I never thought would have something like it. I enjoyed Coventry too, but I have to say I really was more moved by Wild Dogs – on stage and in book form 🙂

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