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Cindy McLean-Bibby and Theatre503 present

Stray Dogs

Written by Theo Chester
Directed by Tommo Fowler
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What would you risk to build a better world?

It’s been a harsh winter. Outside the city walls, people are starving. Inside, the rich townspeople hoard their grain and gold.  Like his father before him, Jacob must serve the elite and keep those who steal in order. He fixes their broken bones, sews up their wounds, and then chops off their heads.

Jacob believes he will keep the peace better through solely healing, but he desperately needs the town’s blessing. Little does he know that others close to him have far more radical plans for change.

Grounded in the past but distinctly contemporary, this unique debut from Theo Chester uses bold storytelling to create an uneasy yet wonderfully strange new world.

Stray Dogs is the work of writer Theo Chester and director Tommo Fowler. Produced by Cindy McLean-Bibby and Theatre503.

Running time: 2 hours 30 mins (inc. 15 minute interval)

Age guidance: 14+

Pre-show information pack: Please click here to read information relating to content of the play, the venue and access performances.

Other warnings: This show contains non-stroboscopic flashing lights, and the use of fake blood and haze throughout.




14 March 7.30pm WRITERS NIGHT: A chance for writers to enjoy a discounted ticket and meet our literary department and the writer of the show. Attendees to Writers Night are invited to submit for our Rapid Write Response initiative. To unlock a £6 ticket, email to be digitally tagged as a writer. If you have previously been tagged as a writer, your ticket will automatically adjust to £6 on the final page of booking – you do not need a Promo Code. If you are unable to attend our Writers Night, the £6 tickets will also be available up until Saturday 18th. There will also be a Zoom session with Theo Chester, writer of the play on Wednesday 8th Marchat 7pm, followed by a drop-in on Zoom with our Literary Manager, Steve Harper from 8pm. Please register your attendance for this here.

28 March 7:30pm CAPTIONED: Captions can be followed on a screen rigged on stage right (the left hand side of the stage as you are looking at it from the audience) during this performance. For any more information please email

29 March 12pm PARENT & BABY:  Provided as an opportunity for parents and/or guardians to enjoy a spot of theatre without the need to hire a babysitter. Please note, we do not exclude other audience members from booking to see this performance.

31 March 7:30pm FILMED PERFORMANCE: This performance will be filmed – there will be three cameras in the auditorium and the audience will be at reduced capacity. Only the back of audience members’ heads will be in shot. If you have any questions or issues, please email

1 April 2:30pm EXTANT ENHANCED PERFORMANCE: We have been working with Extant to be able to offer this enhanced performance. The performance itself will run as normal, with the addition of a touch tour and programme notes in the auditorium from 1pm-1:45pm. Please email if you would like to attend the touch tour and programme notes and/or if you need to book in a free access companion ticket.

Theo Chester

Theo Chester is a playwright from London. He has been a member of Soho Theatre’s Writers’ Lab and Writers’ Alumni Group. Alongside writing, he has worked in film, assistant directing the feature documentary Summer in the Forest (2017). He also works as an English Teacher. Stray Dogs is his debut play.


Artistic Team
Theo Chester
Tommo Fowler
Cindy McLean-Bibby
Frey Kwa Hawking
Casting Director
Amy Blair
Anna Lewis
Lighting Designer
Megan Lucas
Sound Designer
Jose Puello
Marketing Coordinator
Hayley Salter
Production Manager
Emily Dickson
Stage Manager
Sussan Sanii
Access Consultant
Aisling Gallagher
Assistant Director
Elsa Strachan
Assistant Producer
Tsipora St. Clair Knights
Cliona Roberts
View PDF
Graham Butler
Abbey Gillett
Ruxandra Porojnicu
Graeme McKnight
Coral Wylie
Posted on 12 March 2023

Your new play, Stray Dogs, is coming to Theatre503, what can you tell us about it?

Stray Dogs is about an executioner called Jacob who would like to change jobs, becoming a healer instead. The problem for him is that being an executioner is hereditary, a punishment handed down generation to generation. Also his society is having an awful time. There is so much wrong with it and he simply can’t see how to heal it all. But he’s not alone in this. His wife and their friends also want things to change, which is where the story gets complicated, messy and slightly catastrophic. Fundamentally, Stray Dogs tells the story of a group of characters trying to “fix” their little world. Each of them have different solutions and all of these are, in their own ways, inadequate.

It’s an unusual subject for a play, what inspired you to write it?

I find stories where characters wrestle with terrible decisions extremely compelling. I think it has a lot to do with my own worries: feelings of guilt, a desire to do the right thing, a fear of taking action and upsetting people. I studied Theology at university and did a course on the philosophy of punishment, which is where I first read about executioners.

The image of someone doing such a terrible, public-facing thing and then having to live with the shame and stigma of that really stuck with me. I then spent a lot of time not writing about executioners, but about lots of other things, but the image of a man on the gallows stayed with me and eventually I put some ideas down on paper and, well, here we are.

This is also your debut play, how does it feel having it produced and what does it mean to you for it to be staged at Theatre503?

This is not the first play I have written, but the first that has made it through the minefield of development! That in itself is incredibly satisfying. However, this piece is also deeply personal and strange and I’m really proud that it will be my debut play.

I am completely thrilled to have this show on at Theatre503. I told them about the idea in 2019 and ever since then they have been incredibly supportive of what was at first a sketchy and slightly mad idea. The play really took shape during the Pandemic and regular check-ins with Steve, 503’s literary manager, to redraft and shape the play were a source of hope and sanity in that time.

To see it come out of those difficult years and be on the 503 stage is wonderful.

What do you hope audiences make of, or take away from the story?

I hope people respond to the world of this play. I want them to feel enveloped by it and find it as compelling as I do. I want people enjoy it.

It is (I hope) a good story that will stay with them. Finally, I want the audience to feel hopeful at the end, to feel that even though it is a story where terrible things happen, there is a clear sense that we, each of us, have agency and the capacity to shift things in our society. This is hard but exciting, although not something that will solve everything overnight…but it is hopeful. I want people to feel hopeful…after a watching a play about an executioner.

What’s it been like seeing the cast bring your story to life?

You spend so much time as a writer staring at a computer screen making small adjustments to a file that is it easy to forget what your play will look like. It has been so exciting to be in rehearsals and watch the cast play with the script, bringing their imagination, skill and thought, finding new resonances and ideas in the story. I feel so lucky to have such a talented cast portraying these characters and telling this story.

What would you say to anyone thinking of booking to see Stray Dogs?

Buy a ticket. This play creates and reshapes its own little word. It is sad. It is exciting. It is strange. I would love you to see it.

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Video: Writer Focus
Posted on 11 March 2023

Watch Theo Chester, the writer of Stray Dogs, discuss the play. Please click on 'Read the full article' below to watch this video.

Read the full article

Video: What can audiences expect?
Posted on 11 March 2023

Watch the cast and creatives of Stray Dogs discuss what audiences can expect from the play. Please click on 'Read the full article' below to watch this video.

Read the full article

Video: The Rehearsal Room
Posted on 11 March 2023

Watch the cast and creatives of Stray Dogs discuss how being in the rehearsal room has been for them. Please click on 'Read the full article' below to watch this video.

Read the full article

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