The Little Dog Laughed is about a rising Hollywood star Mitchell (Rupert Friend), who in the words of his agent “suffers from a slight recurring case of homosexuality”. He meets rent boy Alex (Harry Lloyd) and their lives are turned upside down when they both fall for each other despite both asserting that they are not gay.
The play is set against the backdrop of Hollywood and explores all of the double standards and difficulties with coming out in show business. There is a fantastic quote by Colin Firth in the programme which just about sums it up:
“If you’re a straight actor who takes on the role of a gay man, it’s obviously not the same as being one in this business”
The Little Dog Laughed was written by Douglas Carter Beane who also wrote To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar, a 1995 film starring Patrick Swayze and Wesley Snapes. It first opened off-Broadway at the Second Stage Theatre in 2006.
The play is narrated by Mitchell’s morally challenged agent Diane (played by Tamsin Greig) who has such classic lines as "A writer with the final cut? I'd rather give firearms to small children”. I am a massive fan of Harry Lloyd and have spent the past three years watching each and every one of his plays but it is Greig who absolutely steals the show and her acting, wardrobe and personality all fit the role perfectly.
Greig superbly breaks through the fourth wall, allowing the audience into the world of Hollywood agents, actors and writers. She was incredibly comfortable chatting and winking to the audience one minute and then diving right back into her encounters with the rest of the cast the next.
Rupert Friend plays the drunken, privileged and sheltered Mitchell really well. While I tend not to question how characters were written (as it is generally a fixed factor when putting on a play), I have to wonder at a rising Hollywood star who doesn’t get the significance of coming out to the world and the effect that could have on his career. In the end, his naiveté is what trips him up.
In an equal sense, Harry Lloyd’s Alex just doesn’t seem to understand the dynamic of his relationship with his girl pal Ellen (played by Gemma Arterton) and the effect that his growing relationship with Mitchell will have on her. He does, however, utter my favourite line of the play while trying to get a point across to Mitchell: “God, talking to you is like sewing a button on cottage cheese.”