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The Beggar's Opera by Lazarus at the Jack Studio Theatre

Published by: Carolin Kopplin on 12th Nov 2016 | View all blogs by Carolin Kopplin


Of all animals of prey, man is the only sociable one.

After their intriguing production of Brecht's Chalk Circle, Lazarus Theatre Company return to the Jack for their season finale - John Gay's ballad opera. With new lyrics and music by Bobby Locke and Chris Drohan, Gay's biting satire about Walpole's administration, a society dominated by money, self-interest and celebrity criminals is transported in the world of today featuring greedy bankers, corrupt politicians, and the all powerful media.

Entering the auditorium, we are welcomed with bags of sweets. Well, some of us. Highwayman Mcheath (Sherwood Alexander) obviously wants a favourably disposed audience for the show which starts off with a rousing song right after the prologue as we enter a world of cheats and liars, filled with a deep craving for money and power.


 Sherwood Alexander as Mcheath

Peachum (David Jay Douglas), a fence and businessman, who manages a syndicate of highwaymen and has splendid connections to the government and court, is appalled when he finds out that his daughter Polly (Michaela Bennison) has secretly married Mcheath. Upset that Polly won't be of much use any more, Peachum and his wife (Natalie Barker) decide to have Mcheath killed for his money. Unknown to Polly, Mcheath, a serial philanderer, is whiling away his time in a tavern, surrounded by women of dubious reputation. He discovers too late that Jenny (Rachel Kelly) was contracted by Peachum to capture him and he ends up in Newgate prison, which is run by Peachum's associate, jailer Lockit (Josie Mills). Lockit's daughter Lucy (Elizabeth Hollingshead) is pregnant by Mcheath and expects him to keep his promise that he will marry her. When Polly arrives and claims him as her husband, Mcheath convinces Lucy that Polly is crazy and Lucy helps him escape by stealing Lockit's keys. Yet this is not the end of the story. 

TBO-062.jpgElizabeth Hollingshead as Lucy

Ricky Dukes' adaptation of John Gay's classic, which was written in eight weeks and rehearsed in three, has become a fast-paced production with a beautiful musical score by Bobby Locke and Chris Drohan, which helps transport the action into the present. Bankers and politicians dance and booze with members of organised crime, returning to their jobs to do their benefactors' bidding whilst the media manipulate public opinion. A surprise guest also joins the party of the rich and privileged who obviously are no better than the criminals they consort with.

Lazarus, known for combining text, music and movement to present the heart of the play and thereby making it more attractive to modern audiences, create a symphony of colour in the umbrella scene, and a comical dance of the MPs who are puppets of organised crime.

Sherwood Alexander is very good as the attractive rogue Mcheath. David Jay Douglas is all businessman as Peachum and Natalie Barker sings the praises of promiscuity and widowhood with conviction and with the highest notes. Elizabeth Hollingshead resembles a seductive panther as Lucy when she faces the naive and innocent Polly, a lovely Michaela Bennison. Josie Mills is very good as the corrupt jailer Lockit.

Ricky Dukes' production could not be more relevant.

By Carolin Kopplin 

Until 3rd December 2016

The Jack Studio Theatre 

410 Brockley Road, London SE4 2DH

Admin No: 020 8291 6354

Running time: 80 minutes without an interval

Photographs by Adam Trigg. 



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