Dead Dog in a Suitcase (And Other Love Songs) at the Lyric Hammersmith
Intriguing as the title of Kneehigh’s latest production is, the same cannot be said of its content, another to add to the long list of shows receiving rave reviews, but unable to fill the hype.
Based on The Beggar’s Opera, a farcical satire by John Gay, and “the most popular play of the 18th century”, Dead Dog in a Suitcase is written by Carl Grose and directed by Mike Shepherd in association with Liverpool Everyman and Playhouse. This reimagining stays true to Gay’s original of corrupt businessmen and politics in a time of disenfranchisement. Dominic Marsh’s likeable criminal Macheath is a womaniser and contract killer, first seen shooting Mayor Goodman and his dog; following Goodman’s death, his widow and voice of Reason (Patrycja Kujawska) runs for mayor. The production packs in a punch, from evil irritating puppets Punch and Judy directed by Sarah Wright, to epic smoke and fire, and brilliant musical numbers courtesy of composer Charles Hazlewood, which range from electro disco, new wave, dubstep, country and soul – standout renditions are Massive Attack’s Angel and a ska track similar to Madness. Michael Vale’s set design is a sight to behold, with a large climbing frame on stage (typically the type found in schools), with a slide on the left, and spiral staircase stage right.
Although the story is easy to follow and the production values high, viewers can be left indifferent to the characters’ lives, as the show lacks emotional depth in its storytelling. Macheath is paid by corrupt business couple Les and Gloria Peachum – the audience adores Rina Fatania’s crazed wife, though she’s akin to a pantomime villain. Filch, a young man portrayed by Georgia Frost, is also employed to find their daughter Polly (played affectingly by Angela Hardie), who runs away to marry Macheath. Along with these dodgy deals, the Peachums pay the kilt-wearing policeman, Lockit (Giles King), to capture Macheath who later marries the copper’s pregnant criminal daughter, Lucy. As may be surmised, there is much corruption amidst the election of a new mayor, and madcap mayhem. Macheath’s repeated phrase of “What is the world coming to?” acts as a reminder of modern politics’ current state; it is a surreal coincidence that press night falls on the 2019 European Elections.
The talented cast who sing, dance and play instruments all seem to thoroughly enjoy themselves, as do most of tonight’s audience and, like previous Kneehigh productions, what we have just witnessed “defies expectation” – and is a bit like Marmite; you’ll either love it or hate it.
Photos: Steve Tanner
Dead Dog in a Suitcase (And Other Love Songs) is at the Lyric Hammersmith from 21st May until 15th June 2019. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.