Created for the 2016 Liverpool Biennial, Monster Chetwynd’s Dogsy Ma Bone was produced in collaboration with, and starring, young people from the city. The project was conceived to engage socially with Liverpool’s youth and the film itself is designed to inspire social engagement and activism among the young. The work evolved out of a series of workshops in which 78 youngsters collaborated with the artist to create a script, music and props, before taking part in a sequence of filmed performances.
Dogsy Ma Bone loosely reinterprets Bertold Brecht’s satirical ‘play with music’ The Threepenny Opera (1928) – itself an adaptation of the eighteenth century ballad The Beggar’s Opera – and the lyrics self-reflexively layer the plays’ narratives which address ideas of theft with references to culture stealing or re-appropriation. As with many of Chetwynd’s performative works, the scenes are charged with a spirit of collaborative eclecticism and playful experimentation – reflected in handmade animal costumes, songs, improvised dances, and the enduring element of chance within the plotline.
The episodic narrative plays out across diverse sites around Liverpool, including the neoclassical splendour of St. George’s Hall, the Toxteth Reservoir, Cains Brewery and the subterranean vaults of a warehouse. Through these varying sites and scenarios, Dogsy Ma Bone positions Liverpool’s past and present identities as a backdrop, against which the city’s future is embodied by the young cast. During the Biennale, the film was presented as an installation at Cains Brewery – in what Chetwynd envisioned as “a transitional space”, operated by a group of children. In 2018, the film received the award for Best Music at the Kolkata Shorts International Film Festival, India.