Performed by Mick Innes
Directed by Roberto Nascimento
Basement Theatre, Auckland | November 25-30
A solo show is a hard beast to master. It appears simple and easy to stage on the surface, but when you realise that all you’ve got is a single performer and usually a dearth of props and set, everything rests on the performer, and the stories they’re telling, to captivate an audience.
Luckily for this show, and for the audience, Mick Innes is a fascinating man. From his rougher-than-rough voice and appearance to his surprisingly fluid mannerisms, he’s a joy to watch. An hour of Innes telling us about his life is a very welcome hour; one rife with not-at-all-ashamed namedropping and deadpan jokes about his life.
Zen Dog: Hazy Recollections From the Life of Mick Innes is exactly what the title promises. Throughout the loosely structured show, Innes recounts his life and his struggles through a zen lens. He doesn’t linger on his hardships, which have been many, and these show on his face (a face that he proudly says he’s earned). Nor does he boast about his successes, which any actor would kill for.
It’s a show that rests upon Innes and requires you to fall in love with him. It would be immensely difficult to sit through some of the more graphic anecdotes if the audience didn’t, but the audience I sat with (and I gather from the response the rest of the season has had that the entire audience has been like) was totally enraptured. You don’t get to have an ending like the ending this show has without having the audience totally in the palm of your hand—which Innes does, and then some.
It’s a show that deserves a future life. It’s a mighty entertaining show and the looseness is befitting of Mick’s personality—he often says “another time…” and leads into another anecdote. Other performers couldn’t get away with it, but we buy it from Innes, and we allow it from him because he’s just that charismatic. With further development, Zen Dog could become deeper and more incisive about Mick’s life and what lead him to be the way that he is. But even as things are, it’s a well-rounded set of hazy recollections, one that could work for any audience.