‘Doghole’ // Vena Cava Productions

‘Doghole’ was outrageous.

PIP Theatre is being taken by storm as Vena Cava Productions’ FreshBlood Festival pours onto its stage. Opening and headlining the student led theatre and arts festival is Grace Wilson’s brand spanking new work ‘Doghole’. The one-act play deep dives into the world and mind of a young writer struggling to be the next big thing as they endeavour to finish their novel and figure out who they are. Fast paced and witty with an increasingly blurred line between reality and fiction, ‘Doghole’ is an exploration of identity and how it intersects with art.

Directed by El Waddingham, the performance refuses to let a student budget limit its ambitious glitter and confetti filled production design. Upon entering the space, audiences are greeted with a colourful graffiti splattered desk flipped on its side with the title proudly scrawled across its front. Although using a conventional stage, the entirety of the space is utilised freely with characters popping their heads out amongst the audience and approaching the frontlines with confidence. Blocking is bold and fantastical, leaning into the heightened lens our protagonist Dog also begrudgingly known as Camille (Cam) views the world through. Love interests are seen through a fluttering of pages, enemies explode into glitter and the world moves in slow motion as Dog moves into a state of panic. Movement was clearly an important factor in the rehearsal room with an entire choreographed disco dance sequence surrounding the climax of the story. Although this particular section perhaps dragged slightly longer than necessary, the audience was uproarious regardless.

Dog, played by Zee Bartley, the spunky young writer carried the show on their shoulders. Full of energy and charm, Bartley’s portrayal saw the character swing from cocky to insecure to eventually self assured and determined. With excellent comedic timing, Bartley filled the character with a quirky and likeable nature that made it impossible for audiences not to root for their best interest.

Amongst the more fantastical, imaginary elements of the show, the relationships formed between characters kept it grounded and truthful. In particular, the development and arc of the relationship between Dog and their mother, played by Jiordie Lobwein, lent itself to solidifying central themes surrounding identity. Lobwein’s performance was transformative and believable; it saw a tired, dismissive mother try her best to understand and guide her child to the best of her abilities. A stand out scene involved Dog, post disco breakdown, having a heart to heart with their mother who then imparts the brilliant advice ‘write for you’ whilst Dog hugs her legs in a clear moment of utter vulnerability.

Another key relationship that unfolds throughout the story is between Dog and Katherine, played by Ava Ryan. Although a tale that refuses to let itself be categorised as a love story, when following a 16 year old protagonist there’s bound to be a highschool crush. Ryan’s portrayal of Katherine offers a soft charm and endearing intelligence that has not just Dog falling for her but the audience too. Confident and with a strong sense of self, Katherine refuses to let Dog tell her story for her and ultimately encourages them to live their life in reality rather than being constantly caught in a fantasy.

Existing in Dog’s fantasy realm and berating their writing abilities are renowned Australian authors Tim Winton and Patrick White. Both played by Keegan Bell, the authors act as a physical manifestation of everything Dog doesn’t want to be but simultaneously everything they hope they can one day achieve. Taking on an almost frenemy like role, an imaginary Tim Winton begins to haunt Dog after they write to him for a class project offering unsolicited writing advice. Bell’s performance is witty and pretentious, poised with posture and highly engaging. With a flipping of a shirt and an adoption of a slight British accent though, Bell switches from Winton to White. From frenemy to complete enemy, Patrick White acts as the antagonist of the story and the peak of Dog’s self doubts. An outrageous caricature of the author, Bell throws himself entirely into the physicality of the character with a stand out moment of the show being a pool noodle sword fight for the titular novel between Dog and Patrick White complete with strobe lighting.

Rounding out the cast in a variety of ensemble roles is Bridie Middleton and Mia Chisholm. From snobby classmates, to snotty Grade Six boys and quite literally catty receptionists, Middleton and Chisholm are quite often show-stealing with their comedic timing. Middleton’s strong vocals and commitment to bizarre physicality is a joy to witness whether she is lamenting about her deceased pet cow or crawling across the stage with coffee precariously balanced on her back as the cat-meets-receptionist Janine. Meanwhile Chisholm is oddly charming as the ratty Grade 6 Hazza with the audience entirely under her spell as she riles with them up with Hazza’s school captaincy speech that promises to see the school bubblers flowing with Fanta.

Wilson’s writing is outrageously humorous and incredibly intelligent. With the entirety of the play framed as the novel Dog is writing throughout it, fast paced dialogue is broken up with moments of poetry and monologues. Every character is completely alive, no matter how small and no matter how imaginary. Dog’s simultaneous distaste and begrudging respect for these male authors ties ever so slightly to the absent father figure in their life. The blending of reality and fiction serves as a distinct metaphor for the difficulty in distinguishing where one’s self ends and their artistic identity begins. Audiences will laugh, clap and cheer as they witness Dog embark on their journey of self discovery but ultimately they will leave with a new perspective on identity and how even when art is intrinsically tied to you, it doesn’t have to solely define you.

‘Doghole’ performs until Saturday 19 August 2023 at PIP Theatre, Milton. For more information visit their website.

Related Articles


  1. I absolutely adored Doghole! It was clever, funny, and the performances were outstanding. In fact, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed all the shows featured in Vena Cava’s Freshblood Festival 2023; I highly recommend checking out Thursday, Friday, or Saturday. There’s even free live music on Friday and Saturday night after Doghole. The venue is fantastic as well – it was my first time at the Pip Theatre and I’m loving it!

Comments are closed.