Review BOV Dead Dog in a Suitcase 2019
That's the way to do it
A mash of madness opened at the Bristol Old Vic on Tuesday night and OMG did it pack a punch.
From its conception even the name Dead Dog in a Suitcase (and other love songs) was controversial.
This black comedy is mucky musical hall with murder, mayhem and a dead dog.
Based (loosely) on The Beggar’s Opera or more appropriately inspired by the 18th century satirical ballad this is an avant-garde interpretation for anarchists and theatre lovers.
The programme warns ‘the performance contains the use of theatrical smoke and haze, strobe lighting, flashing lights, loud noise/sound effects, the use of imitation fire arms and strong language’ but even if I had read that beforehand it wouldn’t have diminished the shock reactions to certain scenes.
However, it is not for this reviewer to spoil the plot for you, suffice to say, it is all going to end badly.
Our teddy boy anti-hero Macheath (Dominic Marsh) is a murdering, lechering bigamist and his sidekicks are just as bad and certainly have no manners.
His love interests include pretty Polly Peachum (Angela Hardie) an accountant with a virginal persona; mum-to-be ninja Lucy (un)Lockit (Beverley Rudd) and a bevy of downtown, downtrodden ‘dancers for money’ who as an aside indulge in some sadomasochism with their upper-class customers.
My mind has a snapshot of the grotesque bondage person with the pig’s snout and exposed padded groin area which it won’t erase.
Polly’s parents Mr and Mrs Peachum are the common people with ideas of grandeur and making a quick buck. Dad (Martin Hyder) is bad – from his spoonerisms to Wallace & Gromit dress sense; mum (Rina Fatania) is worse – from her double leopard skin outfits to her quick-fire finale.
Ivana Trump makes an appearance as wronged Widow Goodman (Patrycja Kujawska) and Filtch (Georgia Frost) is the ‘accident’ prone stooge who almost steals the show.
There is visual commentary from a seaside Punch & Judy as the storyline is a parallel parody, fears about a contaminated pilchard factory and a comical three-card farce played out using plastic suitcases.
It is remarkable feat by the 13-strong Kneehigh theatre company to fill a stage with bad (wo)men, mad (wo)men and what I initially thought was an LGBT policeman Colin Lockit (Giles King).
My detective work was slightly off-kilter as he was just a corrupt officer wearing a tartan skirt who was prone to flashing his undercarriage.
This is Blood Brothers meets Usual Suspects mixed with the underbelly of Charles Dickens and Victor Hugo and laced with Spitting Image.
Add the dead dog, some shite and a canine tail stiff from rigor mortis and your get the gist of a must-see production and I haven’t even mentioned vote rigging, political demise, hangman, bananas or buzzing flies!
Every genre of music feature from sea shanties to folk, from rock ‘n’ roll to ska, punk and Henry Purcell and all is delectably delivered as solos, chorus or instrumentals.
With a dark industrial set and low life lighting the atmospherics are creepy but expectant – note arrival of the Cabbage Patch kids!
The gangster two tone fashion of the cast is perfect.
On Tuesday night the cast, backstage ‘boys’, musicians and everyone involved got a well-deserved standing ovations – probably the best theatre I have seen since Christmas Carol and I didn't put that in because I was sitting next to the festive play director as he told me he doesn't read them.