The Beggar’s Opera by John Gay at The Jack Studio Theatre

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Entering the theatre, I’m impressed by the seating in the round, moody lighting and minimalistic set. An actor greets me and directs me to the front row, assuring me that I’ve got the best seat in the house. He struck me with his candid and suave nature and I immediately thought he superseded the plot, that somehow he was above the goings on. Little did I know he was both narrator and protagonist. And his horrid story was about to unfold…

This adaptation of The Beggars Opera craftily morphs the three-act Opera of 1728 into a one-act musical. The story revolves around the thief MacHeath and his arousal and betrayal of many women, with Lucy and Polly at the forefront of his affairs. Initially painted as the loving and trustworthy husband of young Polly, we discover the many layers of MacHeath’s persona, his superficial charm failing to hide his devious nature.

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This adaptation by Lazarus Theatre Company cleverly keeps the intensity of the original opera while modernising it to the delight of audiences. The company of ten works incredibly as a group, with functional yet appealing choreography to heighten the air of eeriness among the viewers. The staging allows company members to slip on and off-stage seamlessly, bolstering the overall feeling of suspicion when needed. The music is pleasing and flows from emotion; it carries the mood of the previous scene and develops it incredibly efficiently, with the following scene taking on the new energy of the song. The company does a fantastic job of blending the scenes together, changing the set with ease while keeping the storyline’s focus.

This could have been the Southwark Playhouse the way the elements were so cleverly and impeccably executed. The casting highlighted the actors’ individual strengths, and the direction pushed the boundaries of the audience’s imagination – it swept me off my feet. I have a feeling Lazarus Theatre Company will surprise and satisfy again and again.

WIGS 5/5

By Ranga Liliu

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