The Buskers Opera

Gay’s not quite the word

William Russell

The London fringe sometimes springs a surprise and steals the thunder of the great and the good, this time that of those who reside in the subsidised palace on the South Bank, with The Buskers Opera, a new musical, at the small but ambitious Park Theatre in Finsbury Park. The National Theatre is about to launch on 18 May a suitably star studded and lavish production of the Brecht Weill opera based on John Gay’s Beggar’s Opera – The Threepenny Opera. But what is this? A sizzling new musical version more or less bang up to date on the other side of the river. It is arguable that Dougal Irvine’s book is a bit of a mess but his score is melodious, his lyrics witty and the small cast and the direction by Lotte Wakeham could not be bettered. The plot involves the London Olympic Games and how capitalism exploited what should have been for the people for its own ends with Jeremiah Peachum as a media mogul (easily identified) and Lockitt as a flamboyant Mayor (also easily identified) whose respective daughters Polly and  Lucy are involved with Macheath, cad, busker and leader of the 99percenters, a group of thieving beggars struggling to survive –  us, while them are Lockitt and Peachum. Maybe the London games and the uses made of them are a little bit old hat but it is still bang up to date in its social comment and as a musical has what all musicals must have – a score to delight. It will be interesting to see just what Simon Stephen’s new translation and director Rufus Norris make of the Brecht Weill classic on the other side of the river.