The Dog it was that Died

by Tom Stoppard.
Director: Peter Wood

Channel 4
9.00 pm

Alan Bates
Alan Howard
Simon Cadell
Michael Hordern
Ciaren Madden
Maurice Denham
Geoffrey Chator
Robert Lang
Zoe Wanamaker
John Woodvine
Sylvestra Le Touzel
Steven Law
Stephen Jenn
Andy Bradford

An adaptation of a 1982 Tom Stoppard radio play centred on Rupert Purvis (Alan Howard), a British intelligence officer and sometime double agent who has forgotten whether or not he is currently a traitor. His unsuccessful suicide attempt, and the allegations contained in a letter he posted before it, lead his colleagues to open an investigation of his case. Who is he working for? Is he mad or feigning madness? The latter issue is complicated by the results of the inquiries into his riddling references to a belly dancer, a slice of Welsh rarebit and an opium den. Altogether a delightful experience, the play is part spoof, part marriage of spy fiction and absurdist drama. Granada gives it the full works, with first-rate casting and production values. Nigel Hess provides a witty and allusive score.

Listener: Arts.

C4 rehabilitated itself on Sunday, with The Dog It Was That Died. No festive fodder, this, but Tom Stoppard's trickiest of farces, with Alan Howard as a suicidal secret agent and Alan Bates as the man it was who questions him about jumping off the Albert Bridge. Peter Wood's production (for Granada) managed the difficult trick of de-stagifying the dialogue and opening out the action without losing a hair of the mischievous mutt which Stoppard wanted to bite us.

Patrick Stoddart
Sunday Times, 8.1.1989.

Alan Howard as Rupert Purvis