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Dog Show at The Pleasance | Review

Ginger Johnson and David Cumming curate an eclectic set of songs and sketches delivered by an energetic ensemble of doggy drag queens who are certain to have you leaving with your tails wagging. The concept of Dog Show is really rather brilliant: a show performed by dogs, for dogs. And set just in time for re-homing season, where one doggy in the crowd might be lucky enough to be the chosen one.

Dog Show: l-r Azara, Rudy Jeevanjee, David Cumming, Ginger Johnson, Mahatma Khandi. Photo credit Ali Wright.
Dog Show: l-r Azara, Rudy Jeevanjee, David Cumming, Ginger Johnson, Mahatma Khandi. Photo credit Ali Wright.

The first act is a total riot. Just laugh out loud silliness, with fabulous movement and choreo from the whole kennel. In one sketch, a bickering canine couple – in this scene played by Johnson and Azara – make a visit to the human kennel to find themselves their very own human. Cumming is just totally hilarious as the kennel owner, stretching his face in all different directions, and delivering each vowel and consonant with perfect comic timing.

The second and third acts aren’t quite so sharp, and the show attempts some tonal shifts which sometimes feel like they could do with a little more easing into. Azara performs a poignant spoken-word piece that deconstructs gender binary. Their rapport with the audience is masterful, even if the lyrics themselves feel a touch on the nose. We’re then transported to Russia, to the tragic story of Laika the space dog (who famously died out in space… so we could see where this was going!). It all becomes a bit more serious at this point, as Johnson – performing as Laika the space dog – is launched into space, swinging back and forth on one of those tyre swings you see at the park. Laika dies, and Johnson’s body lies lifelessly over the tyre. It’s the sort of dark comedy you might only find in a show which feels like a blend of an episode of the Catherine Tate Show and a night out in a German sex club in the Weimar Republic.

In another act, Rudy Jeevanjee gives one of the most technically brilliant lip-syncing routines I’ve ever seen. She embodies the voice of Octavia St. Laurent, whose story became famous from the 90s documentary Paris is Burning. Mahatma Khandi is equally brilliant, bringing a delightfully comic flair to each and every moment she’s on stage, particularly when taking on the persona of a glamorous social media influencer. Other highlights include a horror film trailer parody (genuinely quite terrifying), and a sketch in which Cumming has sex with a footstool (…yes, you read that correctly).

Structurally something doesn’t quite work for me – it feels a bit of a drag with the performances spread over three acts, and the narrative framework that’s setup at the beginning seems to get lost completely by the time we get to the end. It could do with a bit of tightening up, but then again it’s so brilliantly bonkers that maybe it’s best to take the dramaturgical plot holes with a pinch of salt. It’s a fabulously queer and camp night out, with a bar that’s open throughout the performance (including QR table service!). Dog Show makes for a glorious alternative festive treat, with a level of finesse, vigour and technical proficiency which makes it a real stand out.

4 stars

Review by Joseph Winer

Join London’s sexiest mongrels at Crappersea Dog Pound as they put their best paw forward and prepare for the Annual Rehoming Show. Can these old dogs turn new tricks? Do they have star pet-tential? Or are they all just simply too ruff?

Dirtier than a Doberman and prouder than a Poodle, this pack of queer canines will have you rolling (over) in the aisles as they do anything for appaws. But are whips and chains the only thing keeping them caged?

Producer Pleasance Theatre Trust
Co-directors Ginger Johnson and David Cumming
Composer David Cumming
Costume designer Kelli Des Jarlais
Lighting designer Rachel Sampley
Production manager Sean Ford
Cast Ginger Johnson
David Cumming
Rudy Jeevanjee
Azara
Mahatma Khandi

Dog Show
The Pleasance
24th Nov 2021 – 19th Dec 2021
Main House Cabaret – Pleasance London
https://www.pleasance.co.uk/

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1 thought on “Dog Show at The Pleasance | Review”

  1. Dog Show is a brilliant performance, really funny and entertaining. Loved the show. The cast deserves a 5 star. And the staff at the Pleasance Theatre were excellent and kind.

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