Canberra / playwriting

Heart of a Dog: An original stage musical born and bred in Canberra

Local Writer/Producer Jim McGrath writes about an original stage musical born and bred in Canberra.

“On the white and pristine pages of Moscow winter snow, a dark story unfolds…

Dr Philip Preobrazhensky lives a privileged life in revolutionary Moscow, thanks to his internationally celebrated skills in reproductive surgery and his Party elite patients. But a brutal experiment on a scampish stray dog, Sharik, brings chaos to the doctor’s ordered life and threatens to destroy his professional reputation and avowed bachelorhood.

Inspired by Mikhail Bulgakov’s novella of the same name, Heart of a Dog dissects definitions of masculinity in an evolving society.”

My sister introduced me to Bulgakov and Heart of a Dog; in the early 1990’s, my parents and sister lived in Moscow on a government posting. During my visits to see them I was exposed to a strange world of competing extremes; of fairytale churches and grey, concrete apartments; of frozen exteriors and stifling interiors; of stern faces but friendly people. Into this mix came a book with a cartoon dog on the cover, smoking a cigar and wearing a garish tie.

Part Frankenstein and part My Fair Lady, the fantastic and farcical elements of the narrative grabbed me immediately and I promised myself that I would do something with this story one day.

I was accepted into The Street Theatre’s HIVE program in 2010 and worked with dramaturg Peter Matheson to adapt this 90-year-old political satire into the vision I had of a contemporary, dark musical comedy. But the writing was only the first part of a long, thrilling, stressful and utterly joyful journey. Shifting from the introverted mindset of the writer to the extroverted role of the producer took some getting used to. However, without that shift of mindset it would have been much more difficult to get such an awesome creative team onboard. Once composer Marc Robertson and director Nick Byrne joined the team and started injecting their own vision and passion into the project, this outlandish creature that had come out of my head and onto the page took on a life of its own and has grown into a beast that I could not have imagined on my own. I truly believe that it is this combined creative spirit that enabled me to win a coveted Australia Council grant and premiere Heart of a Dog at The Street Theatre in May.

Heart of a Dog plays May 22-24 at The Street Theatre, 15 Childers St., Civic.

For bookings call 6247 1223.


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