Dead Dog in a Suitcase (and other love songs) at HOME, preview: Satire for our times

Polly Checkland Harding

Chaotic, critically-acclaimed, and with a stunning, cross-genre sound track, Dead Dog in a Suitcase at HOME isn’t to be missed.

A returning production may not have the frisson of risk associated with new shows – but at least you know it’ll be good. Musical satire Dead Dog in a Suitcase (and other love songs), coming to HOME this September, is not only presented by an award-winning company, it’s also critically acclaimed, receiving four stars from both The Guardian and The Times. Kneehigh, the Cornwall-based international touring company behind it, have hit a high note with this production; no small achievement when the musical Dead Dog is based on was written in 1728.

“A festering muck-heap of scabrous little ditties”

Helpfully, the themes of the original text are still grimly relevant today; John Gay’s The Beggar’s Opera, on which Dead Dog is based, was a blistering look at social corruption and injustice, “an ‘opera’ about the essential injustice of the world, where rich and poor are corrupt alike, yet the poor go down for it and the rich do not,” explains Music Director of the adapted Dead Dog, Charles Hazlewood. “An opera where arias – instead of being art-house confections – were a festering muck-heap of scabrous little ditties,” he adds, colourfully. Appropriately, the music Hazlewood has created for this complete reworking isn’t in the least bit precious, either.

Performed by the 12-strong company of Kneehigh actor-musicians, Hazlewood’s live score combines wide-ranging genres – from folk to trip-hop, psychedelia to ska, with a bit of dubstep thrown in for good measure. It echoes the chaos and energy behind the production – one that, according to Artistic Director of Theatre at HOME, Walter Meierjohann, still packs a punch. Dead Dog has “one of the maddest and most poignant endings you will ever see in a theatre,” he argues. Intrigued? So are we.

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