A Dog’s Heart


Written by Hannah Grantz
01 Monday 01st November 2010

In a collaboration between British theatre company Complicite’s Artistic Director, Simon McBurney, Russian composer Alexander Raskatov, and an original novel by author Mikhall Bulgakov (1891-1940), comes the unique stage performance of A Dog’s Heart.  The newest adaptation of this Frankenstein-esque story will be making its UK premier on 20 November.  When an orphan dog is turned into something resembling a man by a mad professor, A Dog’s Heart takes the stage with Raskatov’s operatic sounds in a most unusual production of new experimental theatre techniques and incredibly unique set work.
Heart of a Dog, in the novel’s original 1925 title, was once banned across the Soviet Union due to Stalin’s government censorship laws.  Influence of Party official Lev Kamenev caused the story to be denied for publication, so Bulgakov decided to write a play with the same story line instead, only to have it confiscated by the secret police.  Bulgakov was unable to publish any of his work or stage any of his plays for several years.  He even went as far as threatening to leave his home in the Soviet Union, writing directly to Stalin claiming he couldn’t earn a living with his restraints.
In 1973 Heart of a Dog was formed into a comedic opera, The Murder of Comrade Sharik, and later the 1988 film by Lenfilm, Sobachye Serdtse.
A Dog’s Heart tells the story of Sharik the canine after being adopted by a shady, probably unlicensed plastic surgeon/scientist/professor, who later removes his testicles and pituitary gland and replaces them with those of a drunk from the streets as an experiment.  The result is a half-man/half-dog creature who loses control and eventually has to be returned back to his natural dog state.  Mark Down, puppeteer, along with other performers from the Blind Summit company, essentially become Sharik on the stage, actively moving the puppet dog about in rapid and hostile gestures The combination of the new oddly costumed man-creature, totally naked and overweight with a sort of gargoyle looking face, and his alter-ego black skeleton dog, makes for a very interested character.
Receiving positive responses earlier this year for impressive creativity after its debut at the Holland Festival in Amsterdam, A Dog’s Heart will be performed from 20 November until 4 December at the London Coliseum.

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