My Beautiful Black Dog @ The Underbelly Cowgate (Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2015) Review

You know as soon as you enter into the world of My Beautiful Black Dog – where Brigitte Aphrodite welcomes her audience members in sparkly shorts and even more sparkly platform heels – that this is going to be a distinctive and very personal performance. From the outset Brigitte addresses her crowd directly, and continues to respond to them throughout. At times it feels like a party rather than a production, but that seems to be half the point. Because the more intimately we connect with her, the closer we come to understanding the very real origins of Aphrodite’s show.

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The title itself comes from the name that Winston Churchill gave to his depression, which Brigitte has chosen to adopt for her own experience of the disease. However, she is quick to point out that she has called it a beautiful black dog, and thus appreciates this as much a part of her beautiful self as anything else. And Brigitte illustrates the relationship she has had with her “dog” over the years through both music and words.

It is telling that there is little dialogue between her and partner and musical collaborator Quiet Boy during the production. This on the one hand emphasises the isolating nature of mental illness, as she slowly begins to draw in on herself. However, when the pair join efforts on the musical numbers it is clear that their relationship has been both weakened and subsequently strengthened by such difficulties. The songs are eloquently written, with both heart and a cheeky sense of humour. Pop This Party is a nostalgic throwback to teen pop music whilst also parodying the pretentiousness of hipster parties. It is subsequently hilarious, but soon becomes heartbreaking when Brigitte is left passed out on the floor when the party ends. She is no longer having fun.

It is this use of comedy to illustrate a very dark experience that makes My Beautiful Black Dog such a watchable show. A string of voicemails are played to us, ones that were left for Brigitte when she wouldn’t speak to anyone, and even as we are moved by the worry of her family there is still a comic element as her grandma complains about her battles with phone technology. It is not a polished show, yet that is half its charm. Brigitte herself is celebrating the messiness of our inner selves. Boom Shakalaka productions have created a show that is both individual and universal, outrageous and yet quietly moving. 4/5

Review written by Holly Kilpatrick.

My Beautiful Black Dog is currently showing at the Underbelly Cowgate (Edinburgh Fringe Festival) until Sunday 16th August. For more information on the production, visit here…

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