BWW Review: DEAD DOG IN A SUITCASE (AND OTHER LOVE SONGS), Nuffield Southampton Theatres
Written by Carl Grose and directed by Mike Shepherd, this reproduction of Gay's gritty, crude creation explodes into the twenty-first century. While keeping the same general plot - a no-good lawbreaker marries a wholesome girl, but his past catches up with him - it adds in some extra surprises, new characters, and a few peurile jokes along the way.
From the very beginning we are taken on a joyride of betrayal, bribery, and scandal. Mayor Goodman (and his dog) are dead, and contract killer Macheath is dodging the same fate while charming his way into a few too many hearts.
The Beggar's Opera was written as a social commentary exposing the lower classes and commoners and their devilish deeds. This narrative has been transformed with modern-day twists: the self-made man and his wife who climb higher than they probably deserve; the police officer whose own flesh and blood is a little less than law-abiding; the ladies of the night who are privy to the secrets of the upper classes; family secrets in every home. It covers politics, death, and the state of the world in which we live, and yet it still manages to make us laugh.
Forget your classic arias; this is an opera of rockstar proportions. We careen through the production to a soundtrack of ska, punk, pop and electro, with the occasional sly nod to the story's origins through a hint of Handel. The music (directed by Charles Hazlewood) isn't so much an addition to the show as the heartbeat of the whole performance. There's barely a silent moment, and the climaxes are deafening and emotional. It is a mixtape for the human condition.
Comprising of a series of love songs about money, loss, desperation and dedication, it covers a whole spectrum of emotion. This is a production that will simultaneously shock and delight, leaving you speechless one moment and hollering the next.
The cast and creatives have clearly thrown their entire selves into the show. They morph from role to role, picking up instruments, throwing themselves off of platforms and belting out showstoppers. There is not one weak cog in the machine.
Angela Hardie as Polly Peachum brims with emotion and astounds with her strength and vocal skills. Don't be decieved by her virtuous appearance; she packs a punch.
Rina Fatania's leopard print-clad Mrs Peachum is a despicable delight and subtly steals the scene from her peers. She isn't the gangster's moll, but the gangster herself, wickedly determined to get her way with a mischevious glint in her eye.
Giles King's desperate and obsessed Colin Lockit is a policeman on a mission and thoroughly entertains with his misfortune. He brings an edge to the classic cops-and-robbers pursuit. Lockit's nemesis, Dominic Marsh's Macheath, is quite the rogue. Though he might not be the ruthless, cold-blooded killer you'd expect from a hitman, he is cunning and witty, and charms the audience along with his on-stage lovers.
Despite being a character who plays a supporting role in the lives of the others, Georgia Frost's Filch is a true highlight. Frost's performance is human and vulnerable, and is much more than the comic relief you anticipate her to be at the beginning: she breaks hearts.
We mustn't forget Martin Hyder as Les Peachum, Lucy Rivers as Widow Goodman, and Beverly Rudd as Lucy Lockit, all of whom give equally marvelous performances. Praise should also be given to Sarah Wright for her sinister puppetry, as well as to Dave Johnzy, Alex Lupo and James Gow for their musical talents.
This is magic on stage. Expect fire, suspension, giant puppetry and scenes which verge on apocalyptic. Kneehigh's spectacular staging strikes again, keeping the audience on their toes, and eventually raising them to their feet for a standing ovation.
Dead Dog in a Suitcase is devilishly brilliant; a rich and raggedy tribute to the dark side of society. It's a modern-day hymn to the desperate and deceived, and it has a beat you'll want to dance to.
Death and deception with a gilded finish; if you miss it, there'll be hell to pay.Dead Dog in a Suitcase is at Nuffield Southampton Theatres until 4 May
Photo credit: Steve Tanner