Storyhouse Theatre, Chester – until 19 August 2017
Bawdy, brutal, a rollicking good ride of a show with fantastic vocals from all cast members and a script filled with local, relevant references – making a classic piece a very current piece. The Beggar’s Opera is a musical based in 18th century Chester with a varied mixture of genres of music giving edge, energy and substance to it.
The tale of Mac (Macheath) The Knife (Alex Mugnaioni) is at the root of the plot, he’s putting himself about all over town while he’s supposedly engaged to Polly Peachum (Charlotte Miranda-Smith) and knocked up Lucy Lockit (Nancy Sullivan) yet he’s regularly cavorting with prostitutes and not Son-in-Law material as far as Polly and Lucy’s father’s are concerned. That’s because Peachum (Daniel Goode) and Lockit (Jonathan Dryden Taylor) are involved with Macheath in so much as they pocket the belongings of the victims Macheath. The fathers decide to close in on Macheath and hatch a plan to have him hung. However with two love-struck females desperate to be loved by him, the one thing that slippery Macheath has is people on his side, to begin with at least! Add to the mix Mrs Peachum, who is the epitome of Madame Therardier from Les Miserables, devoted to her husband who appears to have an inappropriate lust for his own daughter, Polly.
The set provided its own ambience and was atmospheric to the extreme, it even felt as though there was a musty stench in the air which is what one would expect from the era and location of the story. There was also an excellent array of audience interaction which was innovative in itself.
Alex Mugnaioni gave a stellar performance as Macheath, he was sly, cunning and occasionally quite ditzy in his manner which gave delightful nuances to the character. Daniel Goode was over-bearing and wickedly crooked as Peachum, he has excellent chemistry with Charlotte Gorton who played his wife as well as two other characters, Mrs Vixen and Mrs Trapes. Considering that Gorton was playing three different characters in total, I occasionally had to do a double take because she played each one so vastly differently. She’s the proverbial chameleon and an extremely strong member of the ensemble. Nancy Sullivan performed the role of Lucy Lockit with sharp comic timing combined with a level of emotion appropriate to a girl in Lucy’s predicament. Charlotte Miranda-Smith played Polly in stark contrast to her love rival, simpering, sweet and slightly dim at certain junctures! Jonathan Dryden Taylor also put in a strong performance as Lockit and he had some delightful scences with Goode as Peachum.
It’s a piece that’s stood the test of time and the fact that actor-musos were used provided an extra dimension to what was already a fantastic night at the theatre. A must-see which offers a modern take on the 18th century!