REVIEW: THE BEGGAR’S OPERA (Brockley Jack Studio) ★★★★


THE BEGGAR’S OPERA is a musical comedy and political satire originally written by John Gay in 1728. This funny, lively adaptation has an excellent, fresh, new score and contemporary staging. According to Ricky Dukes, the Artistic Director, the new material was written in eight weeks and rehearsals took just three weeks. That is truly remarkable, we offer the entire company our greatest respect and congratulations.

The original play has been changed many times since its 1728 premiere in Lincoln’s Inn Fields London. It was originally written by John Gay as a lampoon of the, then popular, Italian style of opera. The most famous of the variations to the John Gay original occurred in 1928 when Elisabeth Hauptmann, Bertold Brecht and Kurt Weill wrote the Threepenny Opera.

The idea for the original musical was put forward by Jonathan Swift author of Gulliver’s Travels who suggested “a Newgate pastoral among the thieves and Whores”. Swift was clearly not a great admirer of the people of London’s East End. The character of Macheath was said to be based on notorious thief and “gaol-breaker” Jack Sheppard.

The story takes place in the licentious world of highwaymen, whores and cutthroats. The hero or perhaps anti-hero of the piece is the morally corrupt Captain Macheath. The feeling is of sleaze, corruption, eroticism and violence.

While still married to Lucy Locket, Macheath has unwisely married the beautiful Polly Peachum, daughter of Mr Peachum, powerful leader of a group of thieves, highwaymen and prostitutes. Mr Peachum is not pleased and sets out to make the best of things by killing Macheath so that his daughter Polly might inherit Macheath’s money. However, to his surprise ,Polly is actually in love with her new husband and she sets out to protect him.

Macheath goes into hiding but is betrayed by Sukey Tawdrey and Jenny Diver and is incarcerated Newgate Prison.

The entire cast are outstanding. They sing and they dance beautifully and are excellent actors with a real contact with the audience. The audience, becomes a part of the action, rather than a mere observers.

Polly Peachum is played by the lovely Michaela Bennison who is an excellent actress and singer. Elizabeth Hollingshead plays a seriously beautiful, sultry and powerful Lucy Locket and Sherwood Alexander plays a devious, immoral and at the same time charismatic Captain Macheath.

I would also mention the excellent adaptation from the original play by Ricky Dukes and the new lyrics and music of Bobby Lock and Chris Drohan which are inspired and the pre-start presentation of lollipops to the entire audience was well appreciated too. The production is hilariously funny as well as dramatic.

The play received a rousing ovation from a very pleased audience at the end. If you can, do go and see this, you could not possibly be disappointed.

The Brockley Jack Studio theatre is located above the Brockley Jack pub. The theatre is comfortable, very intimate and has a great atmosphere. The seats are very close to the action, which is an exciting and dramatic way to spend an evening.

The Lazarus Theatre Company state that they are committed to producing the best in classical theatre by contemporary players for a contemporary audience. On the evidence of The Beggars Opera this is exactly what they are achieving.

Reviewed by Graham Archer

THE BEGGAR’S OPERA plays at the Brockley Jack Studio until 3 December 2016