The Beggar’s Opera, Regent’s Park Theatre dir Lucy Bailey, design William Dudley
A-Treat. Gay and Rich put on the first musical satire in 1728 with The Beggar’s Opera or a Newgate Pastoral. It filters through to us via the likes of Olivier and Roger Daltry and sits as one of the wittiest and cleverest theatrical treats of all time. Written as a criticism against the collapse of the South Sea Bubble, think current financial crash, it’s not just the gargantuan personalities of Peachum and Mrs P and Lockit, the love rivalry of Polly and Lucy, the cuckoldry by Macheath, the ribaldry, camaraderie of the male and female gangs that delight, it’s the complexity and simplicity, fixed like Brighton Rock, of English heritage and folklore itself. The artist William Hogarth was drawn to this opera, himself a fine satirist, with its multiple stories, backdrops both private and public. Director Lucy Bailey has drawn inspiration from him and used his work as a pictorial cue throughout. The music, a mix of operatic recitative, folk songs, ballads, a kick-back at some of the conventions of the time, is evoked on eighteenth century instruments and the singing is strong. The setting of Regent’s Park made for a real pastoral evocation, so that even the predictable deluge could dent neither the spirit nor energy of this timely revival…….