Well. Kneehigh and the Lyric Hammersmith have rather stolen my thunder on this one! As I’d planned all of these in advance, I decided I should stick to them – despite now being given the chance to correct my mistake of not knowing of Kneehigh when Dead Dog in a Suitcase was performed back in 2014… Listening to the live recording has well and truly whet my appetite; there’s a reasonable chance that the cast will differ this time around (though I’m hoping for some familiar faces), so I can say that I’m sad to have missed out on seeing particular people in these roles.
The bizarrely named show is “A New Beggar’s Opera”, with contract killer Macheath running riot – he’s just married Polly Peachum, and her parents are not best pleased by this! Add to this Mayor Goodman’s recent assassination, and you have a recipe for trouble. The Beggar’s Opera was written by John Gay in 1728 as a satire of Italian opera, not to mention the politics, corruption & injustice that was rife in the 18th century; it has spawned various other versions of the story, most famously Brecht’s The Threepenny Opera, and recently The Buskers Opera at the Park Theatre. The core story‘s popularity has remained intact over the centuries.
Charles Hazlewood and Carl Grose form the composer/lyricist team (who also worked together last year on Kneehigh’s production of The Tin Drum, seen as something of a follow-up to Dead Dog in a Suitcase), whose work we get to hear on this CD. As there’s no dialogue included, it’s hard to know for certain what the story is, but I presume it follows the same rough trajectory as the original Beggar’s Opera. As such, the recording will probably be best for those who have seen the show, just so you get the full effect.
It certainly packs a punch! Just as you might expect from Kneehigh and this particular songwriting team, it’s full of anger & humour that rages against the world, all the while seeing a twisted beauty in it. The songs also do well to showcase some brilliant vocal talent, including that of Carly Bawden as Polly Peachum, Audrey Brisson as Lucy Lockitt and Dominic Marsh as Macheath. All I wish is that I could see some of Sarah Wright’s puppetry while I’m listening to it!
I’ve loved the story of The Beggar’s Opera ever since I first saw a version of The Threepenny Opera that my school staged many years ago, and this recording has definitely made me excited for the show’s return next year. The time is absolutely right for Macheath to make his comeback…
Dead Dog in a Suitcase (and other love songs) was recorded live at the Liverpool Everyman during the 2014 tour. You can buy the album online.