The Beggar’s Opera by John Gay was the Main School Play this term, and – rather like Brecht’s recreation of the piece in his Threepenny Opera – was given a new setting by Director Lloyd Allington and Musical Director Jason Richards. Gay’s 1728London thieves, crooks and doxies became America’s 1920s Mafiosi and their Molls, led by Guy Amos as the ambivalent anti-hero Macheath and Max Thomas as Peachum the Fence.
In one sense, this piece is the first “Musical”: Gay’s original was intended to be an opera for The People – as opposed to the contemporary operas of Handel for the toffs – and so the characters routinely burst into short snatches of song. It was Jason’s new score which added great vitality to the piece – jazz, blues, catchy tunes which lived in the memory, and which gave the characters life. There wereoutstanding turns fromMaddie Dunn as the hapless, spurned (but ultimately successful) Polly;Izzy Moulding as the unfortunate victim Lucy Lockit;Orlando Giannini as her cruel father, Lockit the Gaoler; and Gwen Stabler as Peachum’s scheming wife Mrs P. Ultimately there is almost no-one we can sympathise with in this fun but puzzling piece – but all ends well, as Macheath is about to be hanged, but is saved by the timely arrival of the Deus ex Machina in true Age ofEnlightenment style;and we realise that the villain may well get off scot-free -but in a world where things are pretty harsh, it is better to end with a song and a dance – theneveryone is happy.