The Buskers Opera Review

Park Theatre 5 May – 4 June.  Reviewed by Claire Roderick

Wow. What a show.

Dougal Irvine has updated John Gay’s Beggar’s Opera, slamming it into the summer of 2012. Peachum has become a corrupt newspaper mogul, Lockitt is the buffoon, dad-dancing, Mayor of London, and Macheath is an “artiste” busking and stirring up anti-capitalist feeling with his group of well-meaning but useless protesters – the 99%ers.

This isn’t biting satire, but it is very funny, with digs at the media, social media and capitalism. The bleak reality that nothing has really changed since 1728 when John Gay wrote The Beggar’s Opera is slightly overdone, but not overbearing. The script is all delivered in rhyming couplets, which could have become annoying, but was done with an occasional wink to the audience and such energy that it felt just right. Macheath’s lines include a lot of apologies and critiques of bizarre happenings on stage, keeping the audience in the palm of his hand during weaker plot moments. Irvine’s lyrics are just brilliant – he gets funnier with a tune. The use of different styles of music, and the insertion of a scathing line in the middle of a sweet song keeps you on your toes, and every number is memorable.

With a set consisting of scaffolding poles and cardboard boxes, Lotte Wakeham’s production is all about the performances. The cast are all fantastic – with strong and versatile voices. George Maguire struts around the stage like a rock god, and sings like one too, oozing charisma even when Macheath is in a downward spiral. The standout performances come from Natasha Cottriall as Lucy Lockitt – full of text speak and MIC mannerisms while she delivers killer rhymes – and Lauren Samuels as Polly Peachum – superbly dippy as she worships the holy pigeons. Their numbers are brilliant, especially Sadder Than Me – a vocal duel that has Polly bemoaning the state of the world, whilst Lucy remembers the trauma of a broken Playstation – the range of styles in that single number is mindblowing, ending with a full on soprano screech off. Amazingly, this musicality is produced with simply keyboards and guitar, with cast members joining in with cello and cajon when needed (acknowledged in the script!)

The Buskers Opera is a wonderful show – full of fun, politics, murder, great songs… and pigeons. A must see show – get your ticket today.