Director: Mike Shepherd
Macheath (Marsh) is an assassin, hired by the currupt businessman Peachum (Hyder) to shoot the mayor. With the mayor dead (and his dog killed in the assassination too), Peachum and his wife (Fantania) have designs on the mayorship and with the chief of police (King) on side, little seems to be standing in their way. But as the mayor's widow (Kujawska) carries around the dead dog in a suitcase trying to expose the corruption in their town, the Peachums' secret is likely to be exposed.
The strength of most of its characters is also key to the play's efficacy, however. While we all know the Macheath of 'Mack The Knife' fame, it's through the vivid depiction of his world's other reprobates that populates this play with a rogues' lineup of the bad, the badder and the downright disgusting. Writer and director Mike Shepherd said of the original play that "The plot seemed thin... the women were either wives, daughters or prostitutes, the men thieves and rogues and the ending felt lame." But in embracing the potency of the play's grotesqueness, he has acknowledged the original's holes and delightfully plugged them with Kneehigh's signature inventive hyperactivity.
And it's through comedy that Dead Dog hits its biggest highs. Through thinly veiled innuendo, many of the characters carry the "nudge-nudge" Britishness of the play, while countless visual gags bring the pithy script gleefully to life. Playing with scale, breaking the fourth wall and making the auditorium feel part of its carnival atmosphere, Dead Dog is celebratory of the protest against corruption, whilst putting its cause under the (albeit melodramatic) microscope. Brecht adapted Beggar's Opera because of the social message it carried with it. Kneehigh have adapted it because that message is just as relevant today, but have chosen to examine it with most of its dogged earnestness removed. In fact, Dead Dog is one of the most joyful experiences you'll have in a theatre this year.