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REVIEW: Dead Dog in a Suitcase and Other Love Songs, Northern Stage, Newcastle

Gloria Peachum, played by Rina Fatania, in Dead Dog in a Suitcase and Other Love Songs.
Gloria Peachum, played by Rina Fatania, in Dead Dog in a Suitcase and Other Love Songs.
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Corrupt cops, politician whistle-blowers, bribes, sex scandals, unscrupulous businessmen and killer gangs.

This list could be taken from the headlines during the last week - or any given week.

Macheath, played by Dominic March, threatens Punch, performed by puppeteer Sarah Wright, in Dead Dog in a Suitcase and Other Love Songs.

Macheath, played by Dominic March, threatens Punch, performed by puppeteer Sarah Wright, in Dead Dog in a Suitcase and Other Love Songs.

Which is why the themes taken from this play’s origins in the Beggar’s Opera, which dates back to 1728, and its 1928 version The Threepenny Opera, make it as relevant today as it was back then.

Here, Peachum, with his gloriously brash and sharp-minded wife Gloria by his side, is a bent businessman.

He aims to build on his empire by becoming mayor after paying to bump off his rival, with his dog also taken out by his hitman Macheath, leaving one fired up widow and grieving pet owner to pick up her late husband’s battle for the truth.

As crime chief Colin Lockit tries to hunt down the killer, it turns out he’s far from an angel, as he takes back-handers from the Peachums, with both families tied together by Macheath as he romances both their spirited daughters.

Throw in suitcases containing the body of Mayor Goodman’s dog, masses of cash or packed with runaway essentials in with songs about love, life, karma and triumph, and the 2015 version is here.

Of course, no one comes out of it unscathed.

One of my first experiences of going to the theatre was to see the Threepenny Opera in this very venue back in its Playhouse days as part of my GCSE drama studies.

It opened up a world of proper, grown up entertainment, after watching pantos in drafty leisure centre halls, and while I hated every minute of acting, a love of watching the stage from the stalls has stayed with me.

Surrounded by teachers and students in a packed-out auditorium once again, it was a joy to see this story revamped for a new audience to discover.

If the show I saw some 18 years ago or so was an eye opener to a bunch of comprehensive school girls, then this would have knocked me sideways.

Flames, smoke, gunshots, glitter, air raid sirens, frequent and frankly superb swearing, rude bits, a shocking hanging and a huge amount of humour was weaved brilliantly with songs and excellent puppetry, from that dog to potty-mouthed babies to a killer monkey and a Punch and Judy Show which underlined the morals of the story.

Add in bit of ska, some Ian Dury-style rapping, dance beats, live music performed by the exceptionally talented cast and some simple but effective prop alongside a stand out set, I think its one of the best productions I’ve ever seen.

The show’s run at Northern Stage continues until Saturday.

For more details visit www.northernstage.co.uk.