Review: Dr Blood’s Old Travelling Show (Touring)

Wednesday 7th October 2020 at Leeds Playhouse (Outdoor).

Live theatre is back and it comes with a side of lawless anarchy and lip-smacking satire in this whirlwind production from Imitating the Dog. Co-written and directed by Andrew Quick and Pete Brooks, and billed as a horror show with nods to all kinds of influences from medieval street theatre to Spitting Image, Dr Blood’s Old Travelling Show feels like a theatrical wake up call.

If, like me and like many, you’ve been feeling starved of the sensory thrill of live performance while stuck at home, this show will certainly shake those snoozing nerve endings back into consciousness. There’s a manic energy to much of the goings on and alongside riotous underscoring from James Hamilton, pacy projections from Simon Wainwright and Andrew Crofts’ bold lighting, it’s a production which certainly lives up to that highly visual Imitating the Dog style.

Laura Atherton, Keicha Greenidge and Matt Predergast capture their audience for the full thirty minutes – with a little help from Matthew Tully’s models which are cleverly incorporated into the show via strategic camera placements. With Predergast donning a gravelly tone and nailing the slightly unhinged narrator role, the production leans on an exuberant style which is perfectly pitched to an outdoor crowd and comes in handy later to smoothly land some comical musical moments.

What this company does best is to create heightened realities with heavy subtext; it’s all a bit surreal and just left of expectations. In this case, the title of Dr Blood’s Old Travelling Show might bring to mind an expectation of old gothic with copious smoke and hushed tones with pregnant pauses, but this show is all about hurtling towards the inevitable blood bath at full pelt. It’s possibly more accurately described as a wild and eventful tale laced with political rage and a good dose of tongue-in-cheek mischief – more abstract comic-horror and definitely recognisably Spitting Image in style.

As always, it’s impressive to see Imitating the Dog blending live action with digital capabilities and Laura Ashcroft’s set and costume designs also commendably provide a backdrop of theatricality in a tricky outdoor set up. To think this show came into being in a fraction of the time a production would generally be afforded makes it all the more impressive in fact.

Admittedly, with so much going on it soon becomes apparent that this is a show to keep you in your toes. The plot itself is so tied up with that overall sense of anarchy that it does carry the risk of losing us here and there – it’s a wild and eventful ride so be warned: stay on your toes! Yes, I’d say this production is a sensory slap across our live arts-starved faces and in this current climate, we should all be mightily grateful for such a whacky wake up call!

Dr Blood’s Old Travelling Show is a Leeds Playhouse and imitating the dog co-production. The production plays two more shows at Leeds Playhouse on October 8th 2020 (tickets here) and then tours until October 24th – details here.

Note: This is an outdoor, all-weather experience and audiences will be standing*
*The space is fully accessible including mobility tools. Please advise at time of booking if seating, mobility tool or wheelchair space is required.

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