4 Min Read

Spellbinding and Spine-tingling: Bite The Hand

Have you ever thought about what it would be like if your pet could speak to you? Bite The Hand, presented by The Last Great Hunt, explores this idea and it turns out it may not be such a great one…

In this world, written by Chris Issacs, select dogs are going through a process to give them human-like consciousness. They learn to speak, read, think and act like humans, but still maintain dog like instincts and qualities.

Sam (Alicia Osyka) opts to have this process performed on her family dog, Alice (Arielle Gray), in an effort to improve her partner’s, Dale (Amy Mathews), mental health. They’re aided by Sam’s brother Wes (Michael Abercromby) who works for the clinic that does this procedure. After gaining consciousness, Alice’s intellect rapidly advances, and she eventually begins to question her unequal position within society and with her owners.

The first act starts with lots of laughs as we see Jeffrey Jay Fowler play dopey yet loveable dog Rex, who’s tasked with introducing Alice to her new life. At this point it’s a lot of light-hearted fun, with plenty of fast puppy-like action which is uninhibited by Bryan Wolten’s neat and functional set that allows lots of room for movement.

Bite The Hand. Photography Christophe Canato

Things take a turn when Alice meets the composed and sinister Reginald, also played by Jeffrey Jay Fowler, who plants a seed of doubt in Alice’s mind around the treatment she receives from her owners.

This sparks change in the story’s primary relationship between Dale and Alice. It starts as very co-dependent but as Alice becomes more enlightened, she begins to fall away from their tight bond; leaving Dale desperate to get her back.

Arielle and Amy perfectly play out this rapidly changing dynamic, as outside forces place pressure upon Alice and Dale. The conflict on stage, is felt by the audience as we morally and ethically recognise that Alice needs the same freedoms as a human but we also see the pain and stress this causes Dale who has pinned her newfound happiness upon this dog.

Bite The Hand. Photography Christophe Canato

There’s are an abundance of opportunities within this piece for the writing, design and direction to go down an obvious route but these are steered clear of. This is particularly evident around the dog characters, who aren’t given any ‘dog’ costume pieces such as ears or a tail, and there’s no attempt to show what type of breed the dog is, because it simply doesn’t matter.

Director, Matt Edgerton has made the most of this script, nothing has been wasted, skimmed over or neglected. His direction equally balances the light and dark of the story, with choices that are enthralling and make the show feel incredibly refined.  

Bite The Hand. Photography Christophe Canato

There’s a degree of predictability around what might happen when an animal is given consciousness, and Chris Issacs lets us think that we know how it’s all going to end. However, when we get there, we are instead delivered with what can only be described as a spine-tingling ending. I have no doubt I was not the only one to have such an immense reaction to the scene, it was a moment that cemented this show as a spellbinding piece of theatre.

Bite The Hand, leaves you with many thoughts to mull over. It’s a story about mental health, power dynamics, love, human dominance societal structures and biases. But, admittedly, the first thought that went through my head was… “What would happen if we gave pigs, who are already such a smart animal, consciousness.”. Well, I think that might be a completely different story altogether.

Bite The Hand is on now until the 23rd of October at Subiaco Arts Centre.