PACKS A PUNCH
In this modern re-telling of the John Gay’s 1728 satirical piece ‘The Beggar’s Opera’ (incidentally being stage in a National Theatre reworking at the same time as this show), Douglas Irvine has lifted the story and dropped it back down in London 2012 as the city becomes the focus of the world during The Olympics.
The text not only echoes the satirical stylings of the original ballad opera, but also references Shakespearean rhetoric and iambic pentameter in a way that keeps the dialohie pacy and rhythmic – a nice hark back to the original piece which, being an opera, was driven by the music (though in this case, Irvine decided not to go with the full 69 songs as heard in the original… probablu a wise choice).
The cast, led by George Maguire who plays the irrepressible rogue Macheath with boundless energy and drive, pit in very strong performances across the board – special mention must go to Ishmael Gander who debuts with his first ever acting role having been spotted by the producers at a songwriting showcase with Cardboard Citizens.
The energy from the ensemble is infectious, the vocals strong and the harmonies tight – the final number ‘Change’ is particularly powerful and had the hairs on the back of my neck standing on end.
As well as a brilliant cast, the overall style of the show is incredibly effective. I’m a huge fan of The Park Theatre performance space, and Anna Kezia Williams puts it to good and imaginative use in her inventive set desgin, creating a simple yet powerful backdrop from which to tell the story.
I know what you’re thinking. Great cast, great music, great use of space and clever design, pacy and interesting script… why not 5 stars? Well, the let down for me on this show was the choice of the London Olympics as a focus for this updated retelling. In terms of the original opera’s satirical focus on politicians and authority figures of the time, you can relate mostly to the modern-day power struggles between the Government and the media, however the choice of The Olympics as a featured event in the story line seems off and creates distracting plot holes that simply don’t work when aligned with the original.
Overall a beautifully told piece, and another great work from Irvine – it just feels like it’s not quite ‘there’ yet.
Date of performance: 18/05/16
THE BUSKERS OPERA
Until 4th June
The Park Theatre
Tuesday – Saturday 7:30pm
Thursday & Saturday 3:00pm
£18.50 on Tuesdays for residents with N. London postcode
020 7870 6876