THEATRE / Dressed up for a classic rollicking tale: Beggar's New Clothes - Broomhill
Wednesday 25 August 1993
Broomhill, the house where the personal opera theatre of Sir David Salomons, Britain's first Jewish MP, is under restoration, has had an ambitious summer programme (still to come, Jonathan Miller directing Ariadne auf Naxos). Too ambitious, maybe, since it evidently found problems in attracting the sort of sharp young crowd that must have been in mind for The Beggar's New Clothes. Still, the show drew warm applause as well as bewilderment. So it should: the collaboration between 606 Theatre and the EOS ensemble is rude and raw, but Gordon Anderson's staging keeps up its flair and pace through a near 90-minute span, and holds on to its precarious balance between the bawdy and the barbed with some gusto.
This is that rare thing, political theatre that can make you laugh whatever side you are on. Dic Edwards has written a Beggar's Opera for John Major's England, keeping the characters and the general shape of the plot but planting them in a world of deviants, mainliners and Young Tories. It does get wordy, but it manages to wrap up its radical analysis in some alarmingly succinct speeches and then to deliver a stream of one-liners that puncture its pretentiousness as firmly as they lighten the grossness of the sexual encounters.
Warren Belshaw's music switches rapidly in and out, like the numbers in John Gay's original. Meant for actors rather than operatic voices, it goes for instant punch and fluency and achieves a couple of strong Les Mis-type tunes, some suggestive scoring for a pair of trombones, a song about Macheath that's too close for comfort to 'Mack the Knife', and a genuinely touching moment (duly reprised) for the hypocritical but trapped Mrs Peach. Between them, the authors go for get-rich-quick targets that range from Italian tenors with hankies to vacuous pop songs for kids, in a number about lollipop-sucking which means exactly what you think it might.
There is a dynamic Macheath from Danny Sapani, and strong singing from Anna Galvin as Polly Peach and Lucy Tregear as her mother. Charles Hazelwood directs six musicians - only five on Thursday, however, thanks to an absent clarinettist - who continue roaming around the tent, dressed as the beggars of the day, and rightly prefer energy to fastidiousness. All in all The Beggar's New Clothes could do with 10 minutes' worth of tightening up, but just as the steam threatens to run out it achieves a climax that tips from black farce to high pathos in a couple of seconds. Not quite Brecht and Weill, but certainly more fun.
Transfers to the Cockpit Theatre, London NW8, from 24 August to 4 September, 7.30pm (box office: 071-402 5081)
After giving gay film R-rating despite no sex or violencefilm
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 'Alien thigh bone' on Mars: Excitement from alien hunters at 'evidence' of extraterrestrial life
- 2 West poised to join forces with President Assad in face of Islamic State
- 3 Mother fed her daughter tapeworms to make her skinny for pageant
- 4 Richard Dawkins on babies with Down Syndrome: 'Abort it and try again – it would be immoral to bring it into the world'
- 5 Pamela Anderson rejects ice bucket challenge because of ALS experiments on animals: 'Mice had holes drilled into their skulls'
Jeremy Clarkson 'sees no problem' with his racist language on Top Gear, says BBC
Lucy, film review: Scarlett Johansson will blow your mind in Luc Besson's complex thriller
Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw
Miley Cyrus concert banned on morality grounds in the Dominican Republic
The Hateful Eight trailer: Teaser for Quentin Tarantino film leaks early
Richard Dawkins on babies with Down Syndrome: 'Abort it and try again – it would be immoral to bring it into the world'
Scottish independence: English people overwhelmingly want Scotland to stay in the UK
Isis threat: Cameron wants an alliance with Iran
Michael Brown shooting: Chaos erupts on the streets of Ferguson after autopsy shows teenager was shot six times – twice in the head
Disgusting, frustrating, but intriguing: how the country really feels about its politicians
Bin bag full of cats' heads discovered near Manchester's Curry Mile