A Dog’s Heart - Theatre Review

Complicite’s Simon McBurney makes his opera debut with an ambitious adaptation of satire A DOG’S HEART at the London Coliseum in St Martin’s Lane, WC2

MIKHAIL Bulgakov’s satirical novel A Dog’s Heart, written in 1925, was almost immediately banned by the Soviet authorities and didn’t see the light of day until 1987.

It’s not hard to see why. His allegory of a dog turned human - brilliantly directed by Complicite’s Simon McBurney in his operatic debut – is a damning indictment of a Communist intelligentsia whose manipulations of the proletariat produced something they didn’t expect.

The barmy tale of Poligraf Poligrafovich Sharikov, who starts off as a homeless mongrel, transformed into a human by a misguided surgeon of the Frankenstein variety, only to end up as a dog again, is perfect Complicit� fodder.

The staging is brilliant. Highlights include a gruesome surgery depicted through shadow puppetry and a demented cat chase, which results in the floods of water.

This isn’t just fun and games however – like most Complicit� productions there is a darker undercurrent which comes to the fore in a powerful ending where images (and voices) of dog and Russian masses become indecipherable.

Alexander Raskatov’s fractured score – like a Constructivist painting come to life - is not one to listen to for pleasure, but it complements the story perfectly and allows for unusual vocal touches.

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The usage of a ‘pleasant’ voice for the dog’s thoughts (counter tenor Andrew Watts) and an ‘unpleasant’ voice for his baser instincts (Elena Vassilieva) is particularly effective, and Peter Hoare as the dog made human is a delight.

Combined with Blind Summit’s puppetry, this is an unforgettable experience which should delight both opera lovers and those not so familiar with the form.

* A Dog’s Heart is performed at the London Coliseum on November 26 and 30, and December 2 and 4