Review: Dead Dog in a Suitcase (and other love songs), Lyric Hammersmith

The inimitable Kneehigh retool The Beggar’s Opera in Dead Dog in a Suitcase (and other love songs), now playing at the Lyric Hammersmith

“What is the world coming to?”

Kneehigh’s Dead Dog in a Suitcase (and other love songs) was well received 5 years ago and so they’ve opted to revive it for a UK tour. Carl Grose’s reworking of John Gay’s The Beggar’s Opera has evergreen reference points with its corrupt political classes and mercenary business types and adorned with Charles Hazelwood’s songs, it makes for a striking experience on stage.

Macheath, the Peachums and the Lockits are all present and correct though in this more modern setting, Macheath is a contract killer who Mrs Peachum employs to bump off her husband’s political rival. He also kills his dog and that’s just in the opening scene. From there, there’s a raucous ride through a society turned entirely toxic by nastiness and greed and probably the puppets too. Continue reading “Review: Dead Dog in a Suitcase (and other love songs), Lyric Hammersmith”

Film Review: Anna Karenina

 

”I’d rather live life wishing I hadn’t rather than wishing I had”

Today I was lucky enough to catch an early screening of Joe Wright’s new film, Anna Karenina starring Keira Knightley in the title role, which is certain to be divisive with its unique approach. Tom Stoppard has been employed to distil Tolstoy’s weighty tome into something more manageable and his adaptation clocks in at a shade over 2 hours. Remaining largely faithful to the novel, Stoppard’s focus is on exploring different kinds of love, and so whilst the focus is mainly on Anna herself as she negotiates the tumultuous affair with a young cavalryman that sets her against her husband and the might of Russian society, he also ensures that the subplot featuring the agrarian Levin’s attempts to woo the object of his affections is kept in to provide a neat counterpoint.

Presented with a classic of literature and wanting to avoid predictability as far as period dramas are concerned, Wright’s main conceit has been to reconceptualise the whole thing in a deeply theatrical manner, literally. He treats the story as a piece of theatre, sometimes being played out in front of an audience, sometimes as backstage drama, but always with a defined fluidity and through-line. This exceedingly stylised and highly choreographed approach has a huge cinematic sweep which I adored, but it does soon calm down into something more measured and at key moments, it opens out with some breath-taking transformations.  Continue reading “Film Review: Anna Karenina”

Review: The Red Shoes, Battersea Arts Centre

“Have you seen her shoes?!”

The Red Shoes, one of Kneehigh’s most famous shows, has returned to Battersea Arts Centre where it started 10 years ago for a final run in the UK as part of the 30th birthday celebrations of this venue. It retells a version of Hans Christian Andersen’s fairytale of a young girl who longs for a pair of gorgeous red shoes yet when her desire is fulfilled, their addictiveness drives her beyond all reason and beyond the help of society as she cannot stop dancing until they, and her feet, are removed. It does this through a music hall frame though, so the performers arrive in ghostly make-up and men’s underwear and vie to be picked for roles in the storytelling by narrator and MC Lady Lydia, a Noel Fielding-like character who also provides. There’s also interludes with magic tricks which play up the cabaret feel, although I was not a fan of them to be honest.

There’s a real inventiveness and playfulness to proceedings as the physically dextrous performers rush around transforming themselves into any number of characters which are beautifully defined, providing musical and dance support at the drop of a hat, and allowing Patrycja Kujawska as the girl with the shoes to sustain the mood of wonder transmuted into horror as the consequences of untrammelled desire are revealed. Her wide-eyed openness was a pleasure to watch but I also enjoyed Rόbert Lučkay and Dave Mynne in the ensemble and Giles King’s charismatic turn as the MC conducting from his perch above the stage. There’s a soundtrack of darkly rhythmic classical music initially highly atmospheric though becoming a little relentless towards the end, which is supported by 2 musicians at either side of the stage with a range of instruments, including trombones. Continue reading “Review: The Red Shoes, Battersea Arts Centre”