Douglas Irvine’s brand new musical, The Buskers Opera, has been in the making for the last five years but with the backing of Finsbury Park’s Park Theatre and the upcoming London election, it was perfect timing to finish the show in time to have its World Premiere on the evening of the 2016 Election. And it wasn’t just any old press night with Jeremy Corbyn himself in attendance.
Based on The Beggar’s Opera, The Buskers Opera has been cleverly written to take the modern day theme of the 2012 Olympics to showcase how corrupt the world of Politics and the media can be. Musically the show is fresh and current and uses a poetic style of rhyming verse to deliver the lines along with a funky musical beat. With shows like In The Heights and the music of the Broadway show Hamilton being so popular right now, The Buskers Opera is sure to follow in this line of success, especially with its British feel and London storyline.
West End stars George Maguire (Sunny Afternoon) and Lauren Samuels (Bend It Like Beckham/We Will Rock You) head up the cast as hippy husband and wife duo Macheath and Polly and both give incredible performances. George Maguire has a very specific sound to his voice and it fits perfectly with his grubby busker character persona. Lauren Samuels voice is (girl) perfect and it’s great to see her back in a show that really showcases her vocal strengths. Natasha Cottriall was impressive as Lucy Lockitt and her performance of ‘Do You Want A Baby, Baby’ and duet with Lauren Samuels of ‘Sadder Than Me’ were the musical highlights in the show. David Burt gave a great, Tim Curry-esq, performance as media mogul Jeremiah Peachum and Maimuna Memon gave an impressive performance as Jenny Diver. It took me a while to warm to John McCrea as Fitch, I couldn’t decide if he suited the role but he shone toward the end of the show, winning me over. Special mention must go to guitarist Mary Spender who’s superb playing skills really brought this wonderful music to life.
It would have been nice to see a video screen be used for the news reports, which happen several times throughout the show, as I found myself looking around in the dark auditorium with nothing to focus on during these times. I guess if this show moved to a larger theatre this would be easier to do. The rest of the set worked well with basic use of scaffolding and cardboard boxes to give a rundown London feel to it.
The Buskers Opera is new and fresh with a current sound and relevant story. I don’t think this will be the last we see of this show and I am delighted to say I was one of the first to have the pleasure of seeing it.
Reviewed by West End Wilma
Photo: Simon Annand
The Buskers Opera is playing at the Park Theatre until 4 June 2016