The Beggar’s Opera

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Image source: RADA website

2016 is the year that Mac well and truly came back. At the time of writing, both The Buskers Opera (at the Park Theatre) and The Beggar’s Opera (at RADA) have put on their final performances. The Threepenny Opera is running until the autumn at the National Theatre, officially opening just last week. Buskers and Threepenny had the added incentive of having a Sunny Afternoon alumnus in each; being a true completist, I just had to go to all three. I’ve been curious for a while about seeing a production at RADA, so on Tuesday I killed several birds with one stone!

I had no idea what to expect when I entered the auditorium. What greeted me was an extremely professional looking set, and an 18th century-looking group of musicians from the Royal Academy of Music. The Jerwood Vanbrugh Theatre is a wonderful space; comfortable seating, great lines of sight and three levels. For this production the stage is thrust – and it’s quite apt that the theatre is based on an Inigo Jones design from the 1600s. Had it been built in his time, it would have been around at the time John Gay wrote The Beggar’s Opera (1728).

Having seen the two more up-to-date versions of the story recently, I was already familiar with the characters & the rough storyline that I was about to encounter. It’s probably a good thing that I saw them in that order, with the potential for language to be a bit tricky at times.

There’s a reason why RADA comes with such a good reputation; the cast of students put in some absolutely outstanding performances. Lowri Izzard (Polly Peachum) has a stunning voice which really suited the baroque style music – Polly Misch, as one of her rivals for Macheath’s attention (Lucy Lockit) was hilariously feisty. Bart Lambert charmed as lady’s man (& highwayman) Captain Macheath, getting funnier as his affairs got ever more complicated. From the off, Fraser Wall really shone as the Beggar, with a very natural sense of comedy. I enjoyed glancing over at him in the background every now & then, mouthing along to the songs or apparently rapt in the performance of his own opera!

I’m glad I decided to go, and complete my hat-trick of Macheath ‘Operas’. I’ll definitely be keeping an eye out for the stars of the future that I saw on that stage – and going back to RADA for more when I can too.

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