Wednesday, 3 July 2019

Dead Dog in a Suitcase

What the hell is the world coming to?

Good news, everyone. Kneehigh theatre company is back at Bristol Old Vic with a revival of its hit 2014 show Dead Dog in a Suitcase (and Other Love Songs). Anarchic, angry and apocalyptic, this re-telling of John Gay's 1728 satire The Beggar's Opera is a blistering assault on the senses. And a right royal kick up the bum. 

What the hell is the world coming to?

After contract killer Macheath (a firey Dominic Marsh) shoots Mayor Goodman (arf, the only good man in the script) and his dog dead, we quickly find out he is acting on the orders of trumped-up millionaire tycoon Les Peachum (Martin Hyder) and his conniving wife (Rina Fatnia: quite possibly my favourite cast member in this production). But, oh, it gets much more complicated than that. Macheath is married to Peachum's daughter Polly (Angela Hardie), the police chief's daughter Lucy (Beverly Rudd) is pregnant with his child and he's finding it harder and harder to evade arrest. 

What the hell is the world coming to?

Written by Kneehigh stalwart Carl Grose, Dead Dog is a lot of fun but it also has a lot of messages to tell us. Although a Kneehigh production often feels like the circus has come to town, there are always messages a-plenty. John Gay wrote The Beggar's Opera to lampoon the class divide, the injustices of society and political corruption of his day. Alas, such is the state of the world that Carl Grose could have got away with doing very little to update the production for a 2019 audience. So these societal injustices and hypocrisies are exactly what he shows in Dead Dog... in all their grotesque forms. 

Composer Charles Hazelwood's music is, of course, bang on, and Kneehigh regular Patrycja Kujawska's performance is an absolute highlight in her role as the widowed Mrs Goodman: her '80s-esque electro-pop solo is spine-tingling, and her fevered violin performance at the climax is exquisite. The final scene with smoke, ticker tape, papers blowing into the auditorium and whirling, deafening, all-encompassing angry music reminded me of the KLF's anarchic performance at the BRITS in 1992 - where they stood in kilts and fired machine guns into the audience to a soundtrack of Extreme Noise Terror. And that's certainly not a bad thing.

There are a lot of things going for Dead Dog and you'd be advised to snap up a ticket and soak it all up for yourself. And if you're put off by the title, don't be. No dogs were harmed in the making of this show.

Dead Dog in a Suitcase is performed at Bristol Old Vic until July 13. Click here for more information and to buy tickets.

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