Monday, February 26

Dr Blood’s Old Travelling Show – Leeds Playhouse

imitating the dog are a company who make things difficult as part of their creative DNA so it’s not much of a surprise they are the first company to try a national tour in the midst of a pandemic.

The audience are placed on socially distanced cones outside Leeds Playhouse, sans cover, as are the three strong cast also exposed to the elements playing a gang of ghoulish vigilantes who travel the country righting wrongs.

This time they are on the trail of a crooked mayor, a bent chief constable and a dodgy headteacher who are conspiring to build the biggest casino in the UK before pocketing in the profits.

Some critics who like to over intellectualise work will no doubt bemoan the slight narrative, and the chance to rub their chin reflectively. The rest of us are just grateful it’s only a half an hour romp, and it’s not too cold, or peeing it down as winter sets in.

Whilst the storyline might blow away on a breezier night the team pull out all their usual tricks deploying live camera feeds, bloody protections, dolls, some Friday the 13th style masks and even songs as Dr Blood – suavely played by Matt Prendergast – and his demonic gang torment the bad guys.

Laura Hopkins’s versatile set cunningly using some flats and a remodelled trailer is the perfect blank canvas for Simon Wainwright’s gory projections.

The company says they take their inspiration from the travelling players of Shakespeare’s England where outdoor performances were the norm, but the often-cartoonish violence has hints of Punch and Judy’s seaside mayhem at times as the body count rises.

This might not be vintage imitating the dog, but there is enough here for their faithful fans to enjoy, and given the limitations imposed by the virus this bloody bonkers show is well worth braving the elements for.

Dr Blood’s Old Travelling Show tours to The Lowry, Salford (17th October), Lancaster Square, Lancaster Arts and Dukes Lancaster (20th – 21st October) and Belgrade Square, Belgrade Theatre, Coventry (23rd – 24th October) with other dates to be announced.

Reviewer: Paul Clarke

Reviewed: 10th October 2020

North West End UK Rating: ★★★