deaddog head

dead dog cAT

Dead dog in a suitcase

Birmingham Rep

*****

IT SEEMS something of a criminal act itself, that so much talent can be captured in one place both in the on stage performers , and those in the planning, design and execution of this first-class adaption of the Beggars Opera.

Kneehigh are not the first to have dabbled with this classic tale of deceit and lechery but Dead Dog In a Suitcase, with the precise direction of Mike Shepard, the expansive music of Charles Hazelwood, coupled to the sharp wit of a Carl Gross script, takes this adaption to a whole new level.

It is perhaps the music of Charles Hazelwood that dominates this radical rework, adding a far more contemporary and often menacing score to the circumstances of those affected by the villain Macheath.

Then there is the design and direction which is nDEAD DOG CASTothing short of an expert display of staging. The team here use puppets, lighting, audio, costume, props and just solid inventive ideas, which at times seem to triple the cast in number all to great advantage. All of this is played out on Michael Vales’ `climbing frame’ of a set, with the stage wings open to view and the costume department at the back of the main set, none of which seems remotely out of place and only adding to the theatrical experience.

Add to that the actors who whilst executing the precision needed in every moment of the play, never falter in bringing to life the comedy or the emotion of their characters. Dominic Marsh plays Macheath as a sort of wily David Essex grinning at his wrong doings and forever dodging the bullet.

Polly Peachum played by Angela Hardie transforms from the white dressed innocent girl into the dark drowned spectre she becomes and had some of the most poignant moments and sang beautifully.

Beverly Rudd played Lucy Lockit, Macheaths ignored yet pregnant girl and with her fantastic voice took some enchanting melodies on into moments of face melting, blistering rock.

Excellent performances came too from the comic duo of Rina Fatania and Martin Hyder as Mr and Mrs Peachum, the unlikely cartoon couple overpowered by ambition and corruption.

Patrycja Kujawska played a key part in the music lead as Widow Goodman and her passionate final violin performance in a storm force and gripping ending was astounding.

Giles King was the Kilted policeman, Colin Lockit, striding around with his bull horn, manically obsessed with capturing the elusive Macheath whilst Jack Shalloo played a variety of characters namely  Filtch and Terry and at several times a female blond pole dancer.

What added a real inventive twist to the production were the puppets. Operated mainly by Sarah Wright, with Punch and Judy, various animals and featuring a quartet of hilarious babies which practically stole the show.

I cannot praise this highly inventive and original piece of theatre enough and it is a master class for anyone interested in stage craft. The work rate and precision of the actors is first class and not one moment, prop or cue is superfluous to the story or without effect.

Dead Dog in Suitcase might not be the most engaging title but whilst many others have reworked the Beggars Opera to good effect, Kneehigh have now made it their own. To 03-10-15.

Jeff Grant

29-09-15 

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