Eddie Marsan as Michael Fagan.

L.S. Media Rating **

Cast: Eddie Marsan, Emma Thompson, Russell Tovey, Bryony Afferton.

The latest in the Sky Arts Playhouse Presents series, Walking The Dogs, tackles the very real life moment when in 1982 Michael Fagan broke into Buckingham Palace.  This event caused a sensation, resulting in a media fury as it was revealed he had gained entry to the Queen’s bedroom and chatted with her about a variety of subjects.

Although it’s not been released what the Queen and Michael Fagan talked about during the time he was in her bedroom, that hasn’t stopped the writer of the play, Helen Greaves, using the best of a story that hasn’t died down after 30 years.   She has tried to portray the event as something more than what it was. Michael Fagan himself has tried desperately to play down the incident and in Eddie Marsan, an actor of immense skill; the audience can be left confused as to why the fuss of the time hasn’t been allowed to become a footnote of history.

Eddie Marsan portrays Mr. Fagan with extreme sympathy. The confused man who wasn’t well at the time of his “insane” moment not only comes out of this really well, but highlights the problems of 30 ago of mental health services and the very real danger of social and personal breakdown.  Currently, the long term care of those under difficult mental strain can be seen to be, at best, neglectful.

The conversation that runs between Eddie Marsan and Emma Thompson as Queen Elizabeth seemingly betrays very little and it is a surprise that Walking The Dogs was able to last the full half hour.  Their talking was interspersed with the occasional sideways look at the Royal footman who was walking the palace’s corgis at the time of the intrusion; an almost sheer waste of the talent that is Russell Tovey. These outdoor scenes could quite have been easily deleted from the writer’s laptop as it really didn’t add to the overall effect of the piece.

This latest half hour in what has been on the whole an outstanding series of one off plays doesn’t hit the highs of The Snipest for example and could leave the viewer feeling disconnected from the actual events of the time.

Walking The Dogs is an unfortunate dip in a very well-produced series!

Ian D. Hall