Tag Archives: David Cumming

Dog Show

Dog Show

★★★★★

Pleasance Theatre

Dog Show

Dog Show

Pleasance Theatre

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

 


Dog Show

Pleasance Theatre until 19th December

 

Previously reviewed at this venue this year:
Catching Comets | ★★★★ | September 2021
Express G&S | ★★★★ | June 2021
Ginger Johnson & Pals | ★★★★ | June 2021
Godot is a Woman | ★★★½ | June 2021
Lights Out | ★★★★ | October 2021

 

Click here to see our most recent reviews

 

Operation Mincemeat

Operation Mincemeat

★★★★★

Southwark Playhouse

Operation Mincemeat

Operation Mincemeat

Southwark Playhouse

Reviewed – 18th August 2021

★★★★★

 

“simply unmissable, irresistible, audacious and adorable; intelligent and invigorating.”

 

Midway through “Operation Mincemeat”, the musical from Spitlip, one of the characters quips that ‘you couldn’t write this!’. Based on true events, it embodies the truth-is-stranger-than-fiction adage. However, there is nothing strange about the truth that this show is unmissable, irresistible, audacious and adorable; intelligent and invigorating. That reads like the closing tagline of a review, so I’m wondering where I can go from here. On a Musical Development timeline, “Operation Mincemeat” is still a fairly young sapling, having premiered at the New Diorama Theatre only in 2019. They, too, must be asking where they can go from here. Because quite simply put, it’s already there! It’s got it all.

Based on the Allied invasion of Sicily in the Second World War, it tells the story of how two members of the British intelligence service managed to deceive Hitler by (dubiously and possibly illegally) obtaining the corpse of a Welsh tramp who died eating rat poison, dressing him up as an officer, planting false documents in a briefcase handcuffed to his wrist, and dropping him into the waters off the southern coast of Spain. The following morning it was dredged up by a fisherman. Although Spain was technically neutral, the documents still found their way into German hands. These documents detailed the Allies’ plans to invade Sardinia, when in fact it was Sicily all along. The Germans fell for it hook, line and sinker and, to cut a long story short, the liberation gathered speed. Yes – you couldn’t write it!

Outlandish as it is, SpitLip manage to embellish it further with a goldmine of quirky ideas, characters and scenarios, beautifully and joyously crafted songs, more laughs than you can really handle in one evening and even the odd, serious message thrown in for good measure. The multi rolling, gender-blind ensemble adopt a host of personalities amid a whirlwind of scenes and songs. The score is eclectic, encompassing rap, rock, swing, sea shanties, dance, dubstep, hip-hop and ballads to name a few; with leitmotifs recurring in perfect rhythm to the showstopping numbers that drive the show.

The writing and composing credits are attributed to SpitLip, which comprises David Cumming, Felix Hagan, Natasha Hodgson and Zoe Roberts. Cumming, Hodgson and Roberts make up the cast joined by Claire-Marie Hall and Jak Malone. I could exceed my wordcount reeling off the individual attributes of each cast member but, in truth, none needs to be singled out. Hagan, the Musical Director, is on keys with Ellen O’Reilly on bass and synth bass and Lewis Jenkins on drums and percussion. It would be a crime not to mention Sherry Coenen’s lighting and Mike Walker’s sound design. This is a show where each ingredient (not forgetting Jenny Arnold’s choreography and Helen Coyston’s costume) blends together to produce the perfect concoction. With parts this great it’s hard for the sum to be greater – but it manages.

The real-life Operation Mincemeat was a success. One that changed the course of history. Although Spitlip’s “Operation Mincemeat” probably won’t change the world, it will make its mark in the world of musicals. Every note, sung or spoken, in this show serves a purpose. Even the throwaway adlibs and asides. I’ve already used up my closing tagline, but it doesn’t hurt to repeat. “Operation Mincemeat” is simply unmissable, irresistible, audacious and adorable; intelligent and invigorating. I wish I had a few more hundred words to play with here, but if you want the detail, just go and see it. It’s unmissable. Did I say that already…?

 

Reviewed by Jonathan Evans

Photography by Matt Crockett

 


Operation Mincemeat

Southwark Playhouse until 18th September

 

Previously reviewed at this venue this year:
You Are Here | ★★★★ | May 2021
Staircase | ★★★ | June 2021

 

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