Silly And Sublime: Dead Dog In A Suitcase At Lyric Theatre Hammersmith
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A huge hit when it first appeared in 1728, John Gay's The Beggar's Opera has most recently been re-imagined by multi-purpose theatre group Kneehigh, known for its alternative productions across cliff tops, up trees, down holes and other less conventional locations.
Re-titled Dead Dog in a Suitcase (and other love songs), the group first brought their rambunctious spin-off to Liverpool Everyman in 2014. Five years on, the show returns with a gusto of physicality and wit, jolting audiences with audacious humour, raunchy song and dance, shrewd puppetry, over-the-top villains and an interactive set that at times, can be explosive. Anything goes in this panto-esque whodunnit, and artistic directors Mike Shepherd and Carl Grose make sure to play on the absurdities of today’s “profoundly stupid” goings-on.
Taking inspiration from the films of David Lynch, Quentin Tarantino and Peter Greenaway’s The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover, along with television series Breaking Bad and even a Punch & Judy show, the production has a simple plot line centred around a mayor (and his dog) who are killed for his knowledge of corruption in a small town. Naturally, deceit and a whole lot of money follow, making for a town full of characters all trying to get their share of fame and fortune. Sound familiar? Brexit shenanigans and outlandish Trump-isms aren’t a coincidence, with Grose saying, “I long with all my heart and soul for change and a new age of enlightenment where we can all be global citizens.”
So it’s not hard to imagine a gross world of exaggerated imperfections — in this case, complete with hangings, saucy sex, machine gun debauchery, polygamy and a good dose of rock ‘n roll (thanks to a couple of talented on-stage musicians who play everything from the violin to an electric guitar). And there you have Grose’s salacious script and Shepherd’s satirical directing efforts brought to life. Charles Hazlewood’s collection of sing-along ditties that resemble at times popular showtunes to more heartfelt ballads should also be applauded, as should the cast’s impressive vocals and impeccable comedic timings.
Go expecting the silly and the sublime, and you’ll have a grand time. “Don’t say we didn’t warn you” is, after all, the show’s slogan.
Dead Dog in a Suitcase (and other love songs), Lyric Hammersmith, Lyric Square, King Street, Hammersmith, W6 0QL. Tickets from £15, until 15 June 2019.
Last Updated 24 May 2019