THE NOISES at the Old Red Lion Theatre, Islington, London
Amy McAllister as Luna: photography Ali Wright

Through the darkness of the L-shaped studio space at the Old Red Lion Theatre, drifts the disembodied voice of Luna, the strong rabbit-hunting dog whose mission is to protect and survive. Explaining how she might appear to her audience, Amy McAllister,(Call The Midwife, Witless, Philomena), welcomes her 60 strong 'pack' of 'silent, stinky' humans to her world within her 'black box'. Physically emerging and stepping out into the confined space of her banishment by the Ma and Pa of the family, Luna pads across the tilted beige flooring whereupon sits her huge doggie beanbag and well used blanket, as well as her hidden treasures. A single lamp hangs down in the centre of the space, emitting a dimmed light depicting her imprisonment against the closed door, through which seeps a stronger glow.

Luna has been shut in because of her disapproved behaviour, despite her howling insistence that she is a 'good' dog, not bad! It is her duty to protect 'My Ellie' and to beat off any aggressors. Confused by the noises that surround her in the form of muffled human sounds, flashing lights and loud sirens, Luna tries to make sense of the strangeness of the warm April evening where life has changed and disorder disrupts her normality. 

'My Ellie' has gone out but should have returned by now and with her absence is chaos and fear. Shut up in her basement prison she cannot perform her job, her duty to protect her loving human in the family whose Ma clearly dislikes her and where Pa is more ruled by his strong wife.

In this solitude and to maintain some form of sanity, Luna shares with the audience her life story which involves betrayal and cruelty. These are presented at times with humour and at others in sadness, disturbing us with the displays of human abuse. Through these experiences she has learned the tools for survival and attempts to advise us, her new pack, on her strategies.

Punctuated with canine movements (directed by Louise Kempton), McAllister invests all her energy into this one person role. It is a demanding monolgue which is relentless throughout the 75 minutes of this premier performance of The Noises. Her movements are considered, the timbres of her voice adjust to reflect her panic, anxiety and confusion. Self acknowledgement is gained through repetition and confirmation of her role as protector but this serves only to add to her fear that she is helpless in achieving it whilst locked away.

Certainly a riveting performance, McAllister commands the stage and divests her perspective to the gathered attendees. On a personal level, I found the performance exhausting and was somewhat relieved when it ended, not because I was restless but because the confusion in my own mind was overwhelming. A brave, challenging role which likewise challenges the audience.

The Noises is a mother/daughter collaboration between the TS Eliot award shortlisted poet/playwright Jacqueline Saphra and her daughter/Director, Tamar. Inspired by her own 'traumatised rescue mutt', a family pet, Saphra questioned how it might make sense of the world from its canine perspective, interpreting the sounds and sights -  the noises - it encounters and which challenge the innocent,unconditional selflessness and loyalty against the selfishness of man.

Listings information

Old Red Lion Theatre, 
418 St John Street, London EC1V 4NJ

2-20 April 2019

Tuesday - Saturday 7.30pm, Saturday matinees 3pm

£16.50 - £14.50 |
0333 012 4963


Every performance has fully integrated audio description for blind and visually impaired audiences.