The Beggar's Opera

Even the damp and intermittent drizzle of a dull summer evening couldn’t

dampen the ardour of philandering highwayman Macheath in Lucy Bailey’s

rambunctious revival of John Gay’s 1728 ballad opera.

Bare chested and swearing devotion to Polly Peachum, his secretly wedded new

wife, he’s next seen cavorting with a bevy of brazen hussies, then later

facing up to the excellent Beverly Rudd’s furious Lucy Lockit whom he’s

already impregnated.

But it’s not all fun and frolics in this lively satire of corruption

punctuated with extended snatches of contemporary ballads (played by the

City Waites on a host of instruments ranging from commonplace guitar and

harp to obscure curtal and cittern).

A gibbet, nooses swinging, dominates

William Dudley’s set of upturned tumbrels, and the threat of hanging hovers

darkly over the proceedings.

For Polly’s parents, in cahoots with Lucy’s

gaoler dad, have a profitable business going – turning in criminals for big

rewards – and their daughter’s recent spouse is high on their list.

It takes a while for the rather threadbare plot to take off, and there’s

sometimes a bit too much fussy business which (on press night) hadn’t yet

settled, but a hair-pulling catfight between rivals Lucy and Polly, the

athletic dance sequences (movement courtesy of Punchdrunk’s Maxine Doyle)

and the sheer energy of the crowd scenes carries this Hogarthian portrayal

of London lowlife played out in the shadow of the gallows.


Open Air Theatre

Inner Circle, Regents Park, NW1 4NR
0844 826 4242
Tube: Baker Street
£19 – £39, premium seats £46
Until 23rd July

– Louise Kingsley