Canberra set to premiere Heart of a Dog, a new musical, in 2014

Jim McGrath, a Canberra local, has been one of only three Australians to win a $50,000 Creative Australia grant from Australia Council, and he will use that grant to premier a new musical in May 2014 in Canberra.

Playwright Jim McGrath and his lead character Sharik. Image by Peter Smith.
Playwright Jim McGrath and his lead character Sharik. Image by Peter Smith.

For the last four years, McGrath has been writing Heart of a Dog, a dark comic adaptation of the novella by Mikhail Bulgakov. The story is about the downfall of a doctor living a privileged life in revolutionary Moscow after an experiment on a stray dog goes horribly… right.

“Dr Preobrazhensky is world renowned for his innovative skills in reproductive surgery and his clients are the Communist Party elite. But when he successfully transplants the brains and testicles of a drunkard onto a scampish stray dog, it all goes downhill from there,” said McGrath.

Describing it as “a bit Frankenstein, a bit My Fair Lady, and a bit Carry on up the Kremlin,” McGrath said the show has “all the good, the bad and the ugly humanity has to offer.”

The score for the show is by Marc Robertson, composer and performer with the local bands Second Sun, Barrel of Monkeys, and Drillbaby. His inspiration for the music for Heart of a Dog comes from industrial bands like These New Puritans, as well classical composers Shostakovich and Rachmaninoff.

“I’m looking to create a different kind of musical,” said Robertson.

“There are lots of cinematic influences. I like the idea of appealing to an audience that isn’t necessarily a Broadway audience.”

The script has been developed through the Street Theatre’s Hive program. You can follow the development of the show at

Cassie Tongue

Cassie is a theatre critic and arts writer in Sydney, and was the deputy editor of AussieTheatre. She has written for The Guardian, Time Out Sydney, Daily Review, and BroadwayWorld Australia. She is a voter for the Sydney Theatre Awards.

Cassie Tongue

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