Dominic Marsh as Macheath in Dead Dog in a Suitcase (and other love songs) at Liverpool Everyman (c) Steve Tanner (2) (Large)

Rina Fatania as Mrs Peachum in Dead Dog in a Suitcase (and other love songs) at Liverpool Everyman (c) Steve Tanner (Large)Recent events have made me dream of a world where we passionately champion our favourite theatre companies. Where flags raised from car aerials flutter with Hull Truck, Headlong and Complicite’s colours. Where we celebrate our nation’s best players: their artistry, their fluidity and their surefooted teamwork. And where only the satire is biting.

If we did, we’d, finally, have something to celebrate based on the Everyman’s latest offering. And, when such a world dawns, Kneehigh will be crowned champions. They’re as slick as the Netherlands, as crafty as Belgium and as gorgeously fluid as Brazil.

Dead Dog in a Suitcase, a more-or-less faithful retelling of the Beggar’s Opera (save, of course, for the dead dog in the suitcase…) pulses with inventiveness, humanity, and high-octane thrills. It’s smart but never smug, surefooted but never stagey and – that increasinly precious commodity – audaciously original. In other words, it’s Kneehigh.

The tale’s a timeless one – of power, corruption and lies. Scheming businessman Les Peachum dreams of becoming mayor, hires a contract killer (the magnetic Macheath – Dominic Marsh – who, surely, everyone in the Everyman wanted to bed or booze with) to bump off the town’s incumbent head, Mayor Goodman.

But his best laid plans (and those of his Lady Macbethian wife, Rina Fatania’s brilliantly unhinged Mrs Peachum) slowly, inexorably, start to unravel. As the duplicitous twists and turns are played out, Dead Dog deliciously gets into its stride, with its woozy Ian Dury-meets-Slavonic cocktail hour soundtrack adding its own fatal forward propulsion. Yes, there is no Mack The Knife here, but there are top drawer torch songs and wonky disco stompers aplenty.

Of course, being Kneehigh, the stage is a kinetic springboard of limitless possibilities – charcaters leap and lurch their way up scaffolding, shimmy down a firemans’ pole and skate around on wheeled trestles. It’s a play with deft, split second choreography – so good, in fact, that you simply don’t notice it.

Watching the crew whirl and bounce around the metal struts and spurs puts you in mind of peeking inside a meticulously constructed Swiss watch- this is theatre as precision engineering. But, above all, it’s theatre with heart and guts and soul. And it’s theatre you simply can not afford to miss.

After a slight misstep with Steptoe, Kneehigh have found the perfect vehicle in Beggar’s Opera. With its savage lampooning of social climbing and savagery cloaked in music hall, farce, puppetry and physical theatre they illuminate, beautifully, Brecht’s 1920’s observation from his ‘Threepenny Opera’ reworking: ‘The world is poor and man’s a shit/And that is all there is to it!’

It’s fantastic that Everyman and Playhouse have formed such a strong bond with Kneehigh (this is a joint production) and it’s fantastic that this stunning new theatre really has a chance to show us what it’s capable of: pure magic.

Dead Dog In A Suitcase (and other love songs)
Until 12 July
Everyman

Pics: Steve Tanner.

  • Mike Neary

    Couldn’t have put it better Not seen anything like it since Kaboodle at full throttle.

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  • Nik Glover

    I have to say I thought the Macheath actor was pretty wooden, but I’ve seen a couple of versions of Beggar’s / Threepenny Opera and studied Brecht and, if you’re working from the assumption that this is a hybrid version of the two (which it undoubtedly is judging by staging) you shouldn’t necessarily expect depth of character, so much as depth of motivation. Having read the Guardian review, I think they’re correct that the politics is pretty thin, and more suited to a 7:84 production. The whole thing felt like a throwback to 80’s agit-prop, with energetic but not really memorable songs. The energy on stage was the best thing about it, and it built to a pretty gigantic climax. It kind of felt like it had been produced by Tony Benn.