Digital Channel > Why Dead Dog in a Suitcase?

Why Dead Dog in a Suitcase?

Writer Carl Grose talks about the unusual title of Kneehigh’s take on the Beggar’s Opera, Dead Dog in a Suitcase (and other love songs)…

The story of the dead dog in the suitcase is a “genuine” story. Google it. It apparently began life in the New York underground. Many people lay claim to it happening to them, or (more often) a friend of a friend. It’s urban myth. It’s modern folklore. And that feels like what our version of Beggar’s Opera is too. If John Gay’s original take was highwaymen and prostitutes and street thieves, ours is about the mythic underbelly of “now” – a world of hit men, weirdo Robin Hood types, bent coppers, politicians in sex dens, corporate conspiracy, desperate souls out to make a killing alongside big business, the end of our absurd civilisation – dead dogs in suitcases. (Incidentally, I know it’s folklore, but these tales nearly always stem from a truth – and who, I ask you, would put a dead dog in a suitcase? I mean, what’s the world coming to?!)

The title also sounds to me like a messed-up proto-punk anti-establishment record from back in the day. It sounds like an album you’d want to buy. A collection of songs culled from the edge of existence. Some angry. Some sweet. Some about life. Some about death. But mainly, songs about love. And all combined to create a portrait of a world hanging by a thread. Also, the Widow Goodman (wife to an assassinated mayor – perhaps the last good man in town), a character invented for our version as the moral heart of an immoral world, and so, for me, had to sing the song, Dead Dog in a Suitcase. It is a tragic lament to her husband, who she loved more than anything. But it’s also about her, and the state of the world…

“Gone is the class, gone is the grace,
Now all she’s got is a dead dog in a suitcase…”

A song that kind of screams “Jesus Ker-rist! What is the world coming to?!!” I could be wrong, but it felt as if John Gay was asking this question about the world he lived in, just as Brecht was furiously asking it with his Threepenny version. Sad to say, it feels very right to be asking it again, here, now, in 2015. And Dead Dog In A Suitcase (and other love songs) feels right as a title. I know it hits the spot for me.

Dead Dog in a Suitcase (and other love songs) runs from Fri 11 – Sat 26 Sep. Find out more and book tickets here.