Dead Dog in a Suitcase (and other love songs) – Shoreditch Town Hall, London

Writer: Carl Grose
Composer: Charles Hazlewood
Director: Mike Shepherd
Reviewer: Thom Finch


Kneehigh, arguably one of the country’s most interesting theatre companies are on top form in this new adaptation of John Gay’s The Beggar’s Opera.

Dead Dog in a Suitcase (and other love songs) is a bizarre satire and morality tale that follows the (mis) fortunes of the largely corrupt citizens of an unnamed town. Macheath has been contracted to assassinate a local politician. He achieves this with relative ease and then for an encore goes on to marry the daughter of his employer, who himself is bribing the chief of police to look the other way. Of course the police chief’s daughter isn’t exactly a stranger to Macheath either. Sound complicated? It is. The first 20 minutes or so requires a lot of concentration as the many, (maybe too many?) storylines are introduced. However, once you’ve got your head around what’s going on the story grips you by the throat and doesn’t let go.

The cast of actor musicians are uniformly excellent in this high octane, thrilling production. As Macheath, Dominic Marsh has the perfect cheeky chappy swagger yet still somehow manages to make his character sympathetic. Rina Fatania is grotesquely hilarious as Mrs Peachum and Jack Shalloo very nearly steals the show in a variety of daft rôles.

From the inventive staging to the gig like musical sequences this production is less musical theatre and more all out assault on the senses. An angry, rock infused rendition of a once soft ballad Butterfly Ninja is a particular highlight. The finale is probably one of the most excessively bold and ‘in yer face’ (literally) endings to hit the stage in a long time.

At nearly three hours long it does drag a little in some parts and the seats in Shoreditch Town Hall aren’t the most comfortable; there was a considerable amount of squirming around from the sold out crowd on press night by the end of the second act.

This is a dark, fascinating and surprisingly touching show that is absolutely worth a watch.

Runs until 12December 2015 | Photo: Steve Tanner

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