Reviewed – 1st December 2021
“a barkingly mad show, but it is smart and even touching at times”
What’s the festive period without a riotous new show by drag queen Ginger Johnson? This year, Ginger, accompanied by the show’s co-creator David Cumming and performers Rudy Jeevanjee, Mahatma Khandi and Azara, welcome us to Crappersea Dog Pound for an evening of muzzles off entertainment.
The premise is thus: the audience are all new dogs at the pound hoping to be adopted by a loving family for Christmas. Before their hopefully happy departing, the resident dogs – led by the immensely talented Ginger – have decided to tell us new recruits what possible fates could await us in the human world – from being a social media pup to suffering through degrading obedience training. What follows is a feast for the eyes and ears; a cabaret variety show filled with singing, dancing, comedy, spoken word and rap on the glitzy Pleasance stage.
Of course, as expected, the show is downright filthy. But there is more to the double entendre than might initially meet the eye. Dog Show is a thoroughly queer show and uses its campy premise to effectively explore how the queer community and its kinky subdivisions are viewed by wider society. Notions of embracing freedom and rejecting control and dominance come up again and again and culminate in a finale song that rings like a warrior cry to not obey the man and instead forge your own path. The writing is brilliantly witty, and the aforementioned themes are weaved beautifully throughout the show even at its most absurd moments.
All the performers are phenomenal. Ginger is, as expected, an excellent compere and Cumming’s is exceedingly funny in his various roles. Jeevanjee, Khandi and Azara all bring fantastic energy to the show and contribute excellent solo performances. All five cast members are incredibly polished with not a note, foot or word out of place.
The audience is treated to song after song from the performers with brief pauses for amusing talking head comedy. The show moves along at a great pace; blink and you will miss some hilarious joke or lyric. Stand out songs are certainly Azara’s rap about gender roles and Cumming’s Act Two opener about humping the foot stool. Special mention must also go to Ginger and Cumming’s song about Laika, the Soviet space dog who was the first animal to orbit the Earth. Closing Act Two, this song marked a significant tonal shift as the audience is asked to reflect on the canine’s tragic fate and lack of choice.
The set, designed by Ginger herself, is reminiscent of old Soho and club back alleys. Four slats of ‘brick’ wall create different formations on stage and there is no shortage of props such as a rideable toy jeep to add to the fun. The lighting (Rachel Sampley) contributes beautifully to the seedy atmosphere with flickering neon and flashing strobes. With the cast parading around in ripped clothes, floppy ears and sparkly tails, the visual spectacle of the show is completely engrossing.
Dog Show is a barkingly mad show, but it is smart and even touching at times. If you embrace the weirdness and absurdity of it all, you are in for a real treat.
Reviewed by Flora Doble
Photography by Ali Wright
Pleasance Theatre until 19th December
Previously reviewed at this venue this year: