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Preview: Gundog

07 Jun 24

Director Yohann Philip previews his production of Gundog

What inspired you to direct this play?

I was really struck by the emotional and psychological depth of the characters, and I thought the underlying themes of the play would be both fun and challenging to bring out. I haven’t directed anything as rural as Gundog before, so I thought it would be an interesting project to take on and learn more about the contextual landscape it was built on. I am really looking forward to getting it up on its feet!


Actors rehearsing for Gundog

Can you tell us about some of the characters we'll meet?

Becky and Anna are young shepherds who are forced to take full responsibility for their farm. They are both driven by a need to keep their family together, especially after losing so many loved ones throughout their lives. Ben, their brother, struggles with his sense of worth and wants to leave the family lifestyle he has grown up with to be part of the wider society that the sisters feel lost to.


Mick, their grandfather, has dementia and appears as the narrative and flow of time flash back and forth. He wishes he could do more for his family, but his age and illness mean he can do little but add pressure onto the younger generation. Guy comes onto the farm looking for work and eventually stays because of the life he gains from being in their company. He is carrying emotional baggage and hopes he will gain the courage to face his demons back home.


Actors rehearsing for Gundog

What themes are you looking to draw out in your interpretation?

Ultimately, it’s about rural poverty and the struggles that many farmers go through in that profession and way of life. I want to highlight the sense of generational trauma that is literally blood on their hands, passed down and never rubbed away. It is a post-Brexit play, set in a time when young people had their freedoms and liberty taken away because of the decisions of others. That sense of frustration and helplessness is shown in the younger characters, who are burdened with responsibilities they shouldn’t have to carry.


Actors rehearsing for Gundog

How has the rehearsal process been?

At first, it was a bit of a whirlwind taking on the directorship at short notice, but overall, I have really enjoyed working with such amazingly talented and committed actors. There are no egos—just genuinely nice people whom it has been an absolute pleasure to direct and get to know throughout the process.


It has also been great working alongside an outstanding guitarist and friend, David Frost (whom I have worked with in a previous production), and a creative set designer and puppeteer, Bex Law. Everyone has played their part, but in particular, having such a hardworking, helpful, and intelligent assistant director, Hannah McCory, and an incredibly resourceful stage manager, Lydie Koritsas, has made my life so much easier!


Actors rehearsing for Gundog

What do you hope the audience will take away from the production?

I want the audience to connect with the characters and their individual journeys. I want them to feel like they are listening first-hand to the real-life struggles of real people, and through listening, to learn and empathise. Additionally, I want them to understand how brutal farm life can be.


Actors rehearsing for Gundog

Can you sum up the play in three words?

Brutal. Heartbreaking. Funny.

Gundog runs 25-29 June at South London Theatre

Buy your tickets here