Dead Dog in a Suitcase

On stage, a cello, a scaffold, a wooden slide, the bottom half of a Punch and Judy booth.  A taste of what is to come.

Having toured to Liverpool and Bristol in 2014, Kneehigh Theatre bring Dead Dog in a Suitcase (and other love songs) to HOME before embarking on an extensive UK tour.  It’s another fantastic example of the quality theatre that HOME is bringing to Manchester.

At its heart, this production is theatre, with a complex and varied music layer, combined with clever puppetry and subtle physical theatre.  It pulls in so many techniques and influences, but only as far as the production requires them.  If anything, the feeling is sparse and pared back, which creates the wonderful, threatening mood throughout.  It feels very open, set near the sea.

The play is based loosely on John Gay’s Beggar’s Opera from 1728.  Macheath is hired by the local entrepreneur Peachum to kill the town’s mayor, so that the latter can take the role to cover up his polluting activities.  It’s a battle of rich against poor, corrupt law, bribery and broken promises in love.  It’s very much a story for today and picks up on some of the themes of the Funfair.  But at the same time there are echoes of the past through the use of classic Punch and Judy scenes, and a less than competent policeman.

This has got to be one of the most varied and interesting musical scores.  According to the programme it ‘straddles electro, disco, new wave, grime, noire, trip hop, punk, ska as well as … Purcell’.  At times full of energy, at others inward looking and doleful, the soundtrack drives the pace and emotion of the play forward.  Some very clever touches, such as Widow Goodman playing the violin during her scenes.

Personally I loved the way this production used puppets, and the skill of those involved.  Whether straight Punch and Judy, the dog (prior to entering the suitcase), the judge, or the babies, the movement was superb and at times so realistic it was hard to believe we were seeing puppets.

So, very much a play for today, both in its production and in its central themes.  With perfect pace, you don’t realise quite how much this play has grabbed you till the closing moments.  Absolutely brilliant.

Photo: Dominic Marsh as MacHeath in Dead Dog in a Suitcase (and other love songs) by Kneehigh Theatre @ HOME Manchester (11-26 Sept 2015). Photo (c) Steve Tanner


Theatre lover, amateur director, occasional actor, writer.

2 Responses to “Dead Dog in a Suitcase”

  1. Penny says:

    Hi Dave. Are you Dave I met at the Alliance Francaise in July? Odd question I know following a review! Anyway, I enjoyed reading your review. I shall look for more. Penny

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