City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

The Beggar's Opera Review

By Vivien Devlin - Posted on 21 September 2009

Royal Lyceum - Beggars Opera
Show Details
Royal Lyceum, Vanishing Point, and Belgrade Theatre co-production
Matthew Lenton (director), Kai Fishcer( set and lighting), Louise Quinn (songs),
Sandy Grierson (MacHeath), James Bryce (Peachum), Elspeth Brodie (Lucy Lockit), Victoria Bavister (Polly), Pauline Goldsmith (Mrs Peachum) Damir Todorovic (Lockit)
Running time: 

John Gay's The Beggar's Opera was written in 1728 as a comic farce, poking accurate fun at the social and political scandals of the period. Its central themes cover poverty, injustice, crime and corruption. As a morality play it has remained perennially relevant, updated by Bertolt Brecht as The Threepenny Opera, featuring the classic torch song, Mac the Knife.

Vanishing Point is an innovative performance theatre company renowned for award winning, visually stunning, exciting productions such as Subway and Interiors. Their new futuristic, sci-fi version of The Beggar's Opera updates Gay's 18th century narrative to create a late 21st century anarchic world now ruled by corruption at all levels of society, the media, celebrity power and the dark, feral underworld of the criminal classes.

It is surely no coincidence that Macheath has the word cheat in the middle of his name - he is a master highwayman, thief, gambler, drunkard and serial seducer of women. The beggar of the original play is here reinvented as a hard, cynical TV news presenter, who describes, on mike and film footage, the adventures of Peachum, his daughter Polly, Lucy Lockit and Lockit who are all keen to find MacHeath.

An almost continuous live soundtrack is performed on stage by electro-indie rock band,  A Band called Quinn with singer Louise Quinn. However, this medley of pop songs with often unintelligible lyrics, do not match the genuine article of the Weill /Brecht cabaret.

Despite an imaginative set design, movie-inspired costumes (Terminator gas masks, flowing Matrix long coat) and a graphic, gritty performance from Sandy Grierson, the truly farcical plot simply plods limply along, the script is banal, clichéd and crude, around which the actors can only struggle in vain to create credible characters. The topical ideas and themes behind this improvised, bold, brash Beggar's Opera are perfectly valid but envisaged as contemporary, dramatic musical theatre, the show fails at nearly every count.

Royal Lyceum, 12 September to 3 October, 2009
Belgrade, Coventry, 9-24 October
Tramway - 28th - 31st October