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Edinburgh Fringe 2023

Gone to the Dogs


Genre: Music, Opera and Operatic Theatre, Theatre

Venue: Gilded Balloon Teviot


Low Down

It’s a well to do, nicely preserved bedsit. In it, Britannia is slumped over a keyboard. As the radio plays in and out and goads Britannia to play along, she rises to the occasion and gives us renditions of a faded Empire that possibly ought to never have existed. With pieces of song, violin and keyboard we have a very accomplished piece of theatre which asks so many questions but refuses to guide us to any answers.


There is much to catch in this and much more you can miss. Britannia sits astride this as a reminder of just how magnificent our losses have been. The use of radio to cajole and give Britannia a row is inspired as it means we have a bit of an anchor. What that anchor may be is never in doubt, nor questioned but never, ever defined.

As the repetition is used to underline various aspects of the past, be it Middle Ages mythology or Churchillian rhetoric, that reminder and reminder again harks us to the nostalgic nonsense we buy into. It reminded me of the commemorative mug and China tea set that nobody I know has ever bought, but there seem to be legions who have it in their attic, ready for Antiques Roadshow to visit their village.

The packaging of the set makes this work so well. It serves as more than a backdrop and when Tsarzi rises to come forward we become more aware of the teacup, the globe and the positioning of everything. It is the dominance of the globe which subtly hints at the Empire upon which the sun never set. It serves as a simple suggestion that we should all be aware that what we have inherited shall never be that earth but is likely to be the guilt and responsibility for what we harvested unfairly from those we subjugated.

I can, as a Scot, forgive the usage of England when Britain is meant as I think this is a peculiarly more dominant phenomenon in England. We have always been, in the Celtic nations, more subdued and less flag waving when it comes to the issue of Britishness, especially recently, and Gone to the Dogs nods to that.

Musically, if there was a wrong note, I never heard one. It was the layering and the complexities that really impressed. Tsarzi has fully embraced the dichotomy of Empire and made this very much a piece about emotional pull. The range of her voice and the approach taken to the classic empirical cannon of song, makes us sit up and ask again if that snippet, now so melancholy, sounds like that strident anthem?

In terms of the theatricality of it, aside from some really lovely audience participation this was chintz on some kind of steroids. The display, including the well placed globe, was inviting and telling us of the tale of just how seductive this jingoism is.

Jingoism brings enjoyment in the pomp and the pageantry, the Proms and the circumstances around them as people swoon over the comfort of things being the same, tradition bearing arms and even when tradition is shown to be absurd, people want to bleat that although it is wrong, it is still British!

It is, however, absurd. And for me, this is its greatest joy. What we are asked to do is to analyse something which is absurd. We are asked to oversee what is totally bonkers. And we are not talking the performance, but the subject matter.


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