Skip to content

Dead Dog in a Suitcase (and Other Love Songs): Lyric Theatre, Hammersmith.

July 3, 2019

(seen at the afternoon performance on 8th June 2019).

According to the programme, this is a deliberate attempt to take John Gay’s 1728 “The Beggar’s Opera” back to its roots yet updated to the present. The original reflected a real-life world audiences could relate to, and so in the 21st century should they to this new version.

The title comes from an urban myth spread by the internet. The characters come from Gay’s imagination, slotted into Carl Grose’s new script and augmented with music in a variety of modern styles from ska to rap by Charles Hazlewood.

New ideas include the corrupt election of a corrupt mayor (in which those, like myself, in the front corners of the stalls voted – the other options being a dead man and Nigel Frottage, hilarious) and the actual dog causing havoc.

Mr Punch (Sarah Wright – sadly no swazzle, so the voice really wasn’t there) is our master of ceremonies for a different romp through politics and theatre history.

Michael Vale gives us scaffolding, moving platforms and a slide on which offices, factories, prison cells and nightclubs appear. There’s puppets of all types and actor / musicians playing everything from electric guitar to washboard.

Dominic Marsh is his usual commanding self as cock-sure Macheath, never going to be caught for long either by police or women. As the former, Giles King’s manic Scottish officer Colin Lockit is amusingly competent though inaudible more often than expected. On the other hand, he has delinquent daughter Lucy to deal with. Beverly Rudd plays her to perfection as always, comedy and dramatic timing faultless as her fans expect.

The strings of Macheath and Lockit are pulled – via unlucky factotum Filch (lovely Baldrick-work from Georgia Frost) – by the Peachum family. Head of household Mrs Peachum (Rina Fatania) is scary enough to run the bent election already mentioned. Husband Les (Martin Hyder) is a satisfied wide-boy who misses the bigger picture. Together, they are the most recognisable of the modern characters. Daughter Polly (Angela Hardie) has a sweet singing voice and wide range as an actor, with notable transformations as required.

The trouble is, the show was written in 2014, and rather feels its age. Theatre has moved on, and it’s very obvious how wonderful ideas back then have now become common-place, so that viewing the original seems a little stale at times. The puppetry in particular seems a little lazy now, and if you aren’t going to produce the correct voices (which would have given a real edge to proceedings with the painful screech the material deserves) then why bother?

The musical styles are now familiar too, overly so. Events have inured us to corrupt politics as well, and the rigged election seems almost mild compared to the current fallout. The result is something in itself heading towards museum status.

Still, it’s well cast and never dull, and fresher than both the original source and indeed the last “Threepenny Opera” the National Theatre produced. If you happen to be near the tour, it’s well worth checking out. You might even want to take a milkshake along to enjoy with it.

3 stars.

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: