The Call of the Wild

The Call of the Wild

Oran Mor, Glasgow

Mary Brennan

SUMMERTIME, and the Play, Pie and a Pint season has classic cuts on the menu.

First of these cutdown versions of texts to come onstage is not a play, but a book: Jack London's 1907 novel, The Call of the Wild.

Umm ... isn't that about a dog? A big, soft domestic pet which is forced into hard labour as a pack animal pulling sleds in the harsh wastes of Alaska?

Originally, yes. But in Dominic Douglas's rattling good adaptation - rousingly directed by Joe Douglas - the dog-eat-dog narrative is convincingly relocated to a modern-day office where Buck (Keith Fleming) is harnessed to the soul-destroying routine of a desk job.

Every aspect of London's saga - from the power struggles within the pack, to the conflict of loyalties that sees Buck torn between a master he loves and the she-wolf who represents freedom and fulfilment - is matched, with almost unnerving appropriateness, to a life-work scenario that Fleming then inhabits with unstinting physicality and a total immersion in his man-dog mindset.

More than that, he braves the teeter-board between comedy and tragedy by playing off ridiculous props, including a toy dog and a jam doughnut, so that we laugh - because his timing runs with the gag - but really, he's only letting us off the leash for a moment.

As he howls out his pent-up frustrations, his exhaustion, his own acquiescence to the savagery of survival, Fleming sweeps you up in the momentum of London's canine story, even as it morphs into a vivid, visceral account of one man's struggle to register the dream that calls out to his soul, and pursue it.

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