Laika: A Space Dogyssey
  • By Tom King
  • |
  • 7th Aug 2014
  • |
  • ★★★★

One of the best things about the Fringe is the energy and ingenuity of the young companies performing here and these are both words that apply perfectly to Double Edge Drama, creators of Laika - A Space Dogyssey.

Laika: A Space Dogyssey is a fantastically amusing introduction to the Sputnik 2 programme

As you may have gathered, the show tells the story of Laika the dog, the first living creature in orbit, launched there by the Russians in 1957. In the hands of Double Edge, this story becomes a classic underdog struggle, showing Laika’s humble beginnings on the mean streets of Moscow, her trials as an outsider at Space camp, her meteoric rise to fame and her final ascent to the stars.

For a company taking on a musical, their voices aren’t perfect but any slightly off notes are more than made up for by the quality of the songs. Life’s a Bit of a Bitch in Mother Russia is a superbly fun folk ballad, launching us into the action whilst mentor-character Gregor’s jaunty number If You Wanna Be A Space-Dog sticks in the head long after leaving the theatre. Of particular note to me though was Die Here or Die Trying - a surprisingly dark-but-inspiring anthem to taking risks.

This brings me on to another point for which I applaud Double Edge. The story of Laika is not one with a happy ending, the life of a dog being worth considerably less than the cost of working out how to bring her back. This is something that the company could have tried to gloss over but instead they make it a central feature, even creating a song about the moral cost of scientific progress.

Beyond the music, this is also a wonderfully staged piece. The choreography is straightforward but exciting and Laika’s launch and her first experience of weightlessness is dealt with both beautifully and creatively. The cast are also all skilled physical comedians with particular credit going to James McCrae who presents an eye-popping, sweat-dripping performance as the terrifying Minister Oleg.

While it’s definitely not what you’d call ‘historically accurate', Laika: A Space Dogyssey is a fantastically amusing introduction to the Sputnik 2 programme and to one of the unsung heroines of space exploration. Two paws up.

Reviews by Tom King

Summerhall

A Fortunate Man

★★★
Underbelly, Cowgate

The Cat's Mother

★★★
The Stand Comedy Club 3 & 4

Phill Jupitus: Sassy Knack

★★★★
Traverse Theatre

Nigel Slater’s Toast

★★★
CanadaHub @ King's Hall in association with Summerhall

Famous Puppet Death Scenes

★★★★
Assembly George Square Gardens

Jess Robinson: No Filter

★★★★

Performances

Location

The Blurb

‘The more time passes, the more I'm sorry about it. We didn't learn enough from the mission to justify the death of the dog’ (Oleg Gazenko, Soviet Scientist, 1998). Laika: A Space Dogyssey is a new musical comedy, based on the story of the Moscow stray blasted on a one-way trip into orbit in 1957. From rags, to riches, to the outer-reaches of space, this is a tale of canine exploration, betrayal and a light-hearted look at how those with power abuse the most vulnerable in society for their own ends. With singing dogs. In space.