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REVIEW: Dead Dad Dog (John McKay, Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh)

1 November 2023

Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh


Dead Dad Dog (Scottish Theatre, John McKay, Liz Carruthers, Liam Brennan, Angus Miller, Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh)

The revival of acclaimed Scottish play, Dead Dog Dog comes 35 years after it's original run at Edinburgh's Traverse Theatre. Written by BAFTA and International Emmy Winner John McKay and directed by Liz Carruthers, Dead Dad Dog is a dark comedy drama full of 1980's nostalgia with two great performances at it's heart.

"Dead Dad Dog introduces us to young, ambitious, 80's Edinburgh lad Eck. He’s raring to go, eagerly awaiting the job interview which will change his life, when the ghost of his long dead father, Willie, materialises before his eyes. What follows is a blackly comic nightmare as Eck navigates his big day with his phantom father in tow."

What a brilliant idea for a play! How annoying (and alarming!) it would be for a dead relative to be stuck by your side, a witness to everything you get up to. From shopping for groceries, to date night, to taking a bath, Eck cannot escape his dead dad's gaze. And his dad cannot escape him. These set-pieces are well observed and very funny. I'm sure there's a TV sitcom in this material.

Dead Dad Dog (Scottish Theatre, John McKay, Liz Carruthers, Liam Brennan, Angus Miller, Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh) Photo credit: Lidia Crisafulli

There is no set nor props in the production; a simple backdrop and single chair are all that grace the stage. The play relies on the strength of the writing, direction and performances from the two lead actors. And what performances! Angus Miller plays Eck, horrified at the arrival of his dad who interrupts his day, Miller expertly conveys how we'd all feel in that situation: confused, irritated, but maybe, reluctantly, a little pleased to have some extra time to say what wasn't said before.

Liam Brennan is excellent. I've recently seen him excel on stage as Inspector Goole in the UK tour of An Inspector Calls, and here his presence is likewise as impactful. The two actors work brilliantly together. There are some tender moments, and more than a few awkward and hilarious moments. Throughout them all their relationship is engaging, sometime tense, always believable.

Dead Dad Dog has a prestigious pedigree: The original production starred Robert Carlyle (Trainspotting, The Full Monty, Once Upon a Time) and it even had a “for one night only" revival in New York starring Alan Cumming and Brian Cox.

I can see why the cream of Scottish talent are attracted to it; despite being 35 years old, the writing still feels sharp and it's absolutely relevant today. Dead Dad Dog has much to say about fathers and sons, life and death, memories and moving on... I strongly related to all the Scottish working class references; and really, that life hasn't changed all that much in 30 years.

Dead Dad Dog (Scottish Theatre, John McKay, Liz Carruthers, Liam Brennan, Angus Miller, Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh) Photo credit: Lidia Crisafulli

Despite the accomplished performances, writing and production, I did feel the play fizzled out a little. There weren't any unexpected revelations, nor did it wholly move or thrill me. Not every piece of art needs to do that of course, and as a "what if?" observation into one man's derailed day, it's fun and enjoyable entertainment.

Talking of entertainment, the pre-show soundtrack, and indeed the show itself is full of the best of 1980's pop music. Go early and lap up the tunes!

**This production was originally planned as a double bill of Dead Dad Dog and new sequel, Sunny Boy. However due to cast illness, Sunny Boy was not staged during this run. I hope it isn't too long before I can catch up with these characters again in future.



Dead Dad Dog plays at Edinburgh's Traverse Theatre until Saturday 4th November 2023.

Traverse Theatre (10 Cambridge Street, Edinburgh, EH1 2ED)

Wednesday 1 November - Saturday 4 November 2023


1hr 10mins (no interval) | £14-£17

🎟️ For more info and tickets visit

📸 Production photos: Lidia Crisafulli


Cast and Creatives


Eck - Angus Miller

Willie - Liam Brennan

Creative Team

Written by - John McKay

Directed by - Liz Carruthers

Production and Stage Manager - Deb Waters

Set and Costume Designer - Alex Marker

Lighting Designer - Rachel Sampley

Sound Designer - Julian Starr

Produced by Old School and Stories Untold Productions in association with Neil McPherson for Finborough Theatre.


🌟REVIEW: Dead Dad Dog (John McKay, Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh)🌟

🎟️ Disclosure: I was invited to review this show and received a complimentary ticket in exchange. Whether I am invited or not has absolutely no impact on my reviews or star ratings.

📧 For media and review requests contact

💗 To see more pictures and watch my videos follow @Lisa_InTheTheatre on Instagram

Lisa in the theatre. Scottish theatre reviewer. UK theatre blog. Glasgow Theatre. Edinburgh Theatre. Scotland theatre.


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