Dead Dog in a Suitcase – reviews of Kneehigh show

Jul 3, 2014

A riotous update of The Beggar's Opera with a soundtrack from dub to disco, delights critics

Steve Tanner
What you need to know

Kneehigh theatre company's new stage show Dead Dog in a Suitcase has opened at the Everyman Playhouse, Liverpool. Director Mike Shepherd, composer Charles Hazlewood, and writer Carl Grose have reworked John Gay's 1728 musical satire, The Beggar's Opera, which has previously been adapted by Brecht as The Threepenny Opera.

In this version, a treacherous pilchard magnate Mr Peachum pays feckless contract killer Macheath to shoot the Mayor so he can run for the job, but is horrified when Macheath marries his daughter Pretty Polly.

Runs until 12 July Everyman, then touring the UK until 25 October.

What the critics like

This sprawling rejig of The Beggar's Opera is "a robust, raucous riot", says Dominic Maxwell in The Times. It co-opts Gay's original with both respect and inventiveness and the cast of 12 negotiate its comedy, formality and nastiness with robust skill.

The production "delights on many levels", says Alfred Hickling in The Guardian. As a jukebox musical it updates bawdy 18th-century airs with ska, grime and dubstep and the story is given the lurid appearance of a timeless, yet very urban, myth.

Yes, it's a musical, but so varied and so passionate, "it's like no other", says Carole Baldock on What's On Stage. The satirical Beggar's Operahas been dragged, kicking, screaming, and unbelievably, energetically entertaining, into the 21st Century.

What they don't like

Sadly, "there's not much room for the decorous strain of tristesse which has run through many re-tellings of classic tales by the Kneehigh company in recent years", says Ian Shuttleworth in the Financial Times. And the ascending musical energy, from funereal beginnings to rap, disco, ska and dub, is not sufficient to counteract an absence of narrative cohesion

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