Current Season

The Beggar’s Opera

By John Gay, Adapted by David Turner
15th - 17th April, 2010

Synopsis

John Gay's great comic burlesque of italian opera is generally agreed to be the first ever ' musical '. Peachum, a thief catcher as well as a seller of stolen goods, is horrified to discover that his daughter Polly has married Macheath, the highwayman. He and his wife plan Macheath's death in the knowledge that they would be entitled to their daughter's inheritance. Meanwhile Lockit, the corrupt prison warden, is also after the highwayman's treasures, while his daughter Lucy is found to be another of Macheath's lovers. Macheath is arrested, Peachum and Lockit hope for his money and Polly and Lucy, among many others, compete for his love.

Cast

The author of the piece, THE BEGGAR Bradley Judge
A notorious fence & informer, MR.PEACHUM Matthew Western
His common-law wife, MRS. PEACHUM Lucy Bairstow
Their daughter, POLLY PEACHUM Amy Wozencroft
Their servant & part-time child-getter at Newgate, FILCH Jack Smiddy
A famous highwayman, CAPTAIN MACHEATH Josh Breeze
Chief Jailor of Newgate Prison, MR LOCKIT Josh Packham
His daughter, LUCY LOCKIT Kat Martin
MEMBERS OF MACHEATH’S GANG:
JEMMY TWITCHER Daniel Willox
MATT of the MINT Tom Bean
NIMMING NED Jacob Simpson
BEN BUDGE Tom Streatfield
CROOK-FINGERED JACK Bradley Davis
ROBIN of BAGSHOT Charlie Western
HARRY PADDINGTON Alex Parnell
WAT DREARY Josh Longbottom
FRED FILCHER Daniel Randall & members of the company
Working at the Tavern, the DRAWER Dominic Brinkworth
A brothel keeper, MRS. DIANA TRAPES Beth Whitehouse
“LADIES” OF THE TOWN:
JENNY DIVER Charlie Reynard
MRS. COAXER Nikita Heaton
MRS. SLAMMEKIN Lyndsey Starr
DOLLY TRULL Hazel Cooper
MRS. VIXEN Imogen Hoddy
SUKY TAWDRY Hannah Newman
BETTY DOXY Rebekah Spencer
MOLLY BRAZEN Lauren Spencer
and Katharine Brinkworth, Katherine Dodds
Marisa Dolan, Eleanor Edwardes,
Madeleine Eglin, Jill Gaunt &
Martha Wilson
TWO CONSTABLES Sebastian Lloyd
Tom Neal
Servant at PEACHUM’S Warehouse Lawrence Davis
A JUDGE Henry Eglin
A MESSENGER Henry Eglin
Women with Babies & Jack Ketch the Hangman played by members of the company
   

Director's Notes

Once again I feel I need to preface my notes with the fact that we have decided to present something that is quite different from anything we have attempted before. We have tended to alternate Musicals and Plays, although often our so-called plays contain a fair amount of music. Previous Musicals that Kaleidoscope has performed have included NELL’S BELLES and THE DRACULA SPECTACULA, both of which seem designed for Youth Theatre productions. Then, two years ago we ventured into the repertoire of adult Amateur Operatic Societies with THE BOY FRIEND, which we all loved. This year for Kaleidoscope’s eighth production in Bingley Arts Centre we are going back to the very first English “Musical”, THE BEGGAR’S OPERA.

 

First performed in 1728, THE BEGGAR’S OPERA was an immediate success, turning the conventions of Italian Opera upside down. Instead of the usual aristocratic characters, the cast consists of thieves, informers, highwaymen and “ladies of the town”; as settings for his songs, Gay uses traditional popular ballads and street music of the time. In his depiction of the low life of London, Gay exposes the dark side of a corrupt and jaded society but contemporary audiences would also have appreciated the way the on-stage battle between two rival sopranos of the time is humorously paralleled in the characters of Polly and Lucy. No doubt the audiences would also have laughed at the political satire, where the self-serving and hypocritical relationship of Peachum and Lockit mirrors that of the Prime Minister, Sir Robert Walpole and his political ally, Lord Townshend.

 

The resulting comic burlesque tells the story of Peachum, who is both a thief catcher and a seller of stolen goods. Peachum is horrified to discover that his daughter Polly has married Macheath, the famous highwayman. He and his wife plot Macheath's death in the knowledge that they would be entitled to their daughter's inheritance. Meanwhile Lockit, the corrupt Prison Warden, is also after the highwayman's treasures, while his daughter Lucy is found to be another of Macheath's lovers. Macheath is arrested, and while Peachum and Lockit both hope for his money, Polly and Lucy, among many others, compete for his love . . In a sense the “opera” is a story within a story. The author, the Beggar, presents the actors who are to play his characters and towards the end, the characters relax from their roles for a short time when the Beggar becomes involved once more. The originality of THE BEGGAR’S OPERA ensured that it was the theatrical sensation of the eighteenth century.

 

Inevitably the subject matter does involve some problems for a young cast and we have had to tread delicately. However we have enjoyed trying to understand the language and style of the piece and to capture something of the period. The Cast has on the whole responded well to the challenges and to the vast number of songs, although many of these are very short. The adaptation we are using suggested a simple Piano accompaniment but we are very grateful that we have been able to use a Harpsichord which is so much more in character with the period. We are also delighted that Katy Gaul has enriched the music with her arrangements of the harmonies and her inclusion of other instruments for some of the songs.

 

We hope that you will enjoy the show as much as we have enjoyed rehearsing it.

 

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