a dog’s heart

Complicite’s “A Dog’s heart” is Simon McBurney’s first opera, based on Mikhail Bulgakov’s short story, The Heart of a Dog.  It is highly developed not only in terms of set but also into video projections.

Moscow, 1925, a Stray dog is taken from the street by seemingly respectable professors who turn him in to a literal and metaphorical monster that consumes everything, the story is seen as an allegory on post-revolutionary Soviet political and power structure. One commonly accepted interpretation is that Bulgakov was trying to show all the inconsistencies of the system in which Sharikov, a man with a dog’s intelligence, could become an important part. Sharik is seen as “a reincarnation of the repellent proletarian,” and the professor represents a “hyperbolic vision of the bourgeois dream,” according to J.A.E. Curtis.

The video is a mixture of live and recorded footage with a great deal of stop frame animation that is used along with everything on stage to build by hand the world of the show. The use of video on my viewpoint is not only with aesthetic purpose, it has a lot more of meanings behind it, specially considering that the story is a critic to the political and social moment of Russia during the Soviet era. The images projected in specific moments clearly help the audience to understand the metaphors of the text relating the animal becoming human and vice-versa by the manipulation of the people by the Soviet power turning individuals into a great power which by acting together could change the society not even knowing the intentions behind it.

I could clearly understand this ‘message’ because while the actors were talking about beasts the images projected were of people marching, showing how people could be manipulated and turned into ‘beasts’. To create a different perception of time and space projection was used in the sense that, on the very first scene, when the dog is on the snow on a very cold day in Moscow, there was a projection of snow in front of the stage, on a light transparent fabric, creating the perfect illusion that there was snow on the stage. Also the use of images with a Russian typewriter typing was essential to remind the audience that we were in Russia, 1920’s. Successful ways, on my opinion, of creating a space full of meanings and interpretations.

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