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The Buskers Opera

Published 6 May 2016

What’s it all about?

Remember the London Olympics? Come on, it was only four years ago. Remember the concerns that with the vast – some might say ludicrous – swathes of money being thrown at it, London and its people were not actually going to benefit from any lasting legacy, and may even suffer…

Enter Macheath, a failed TV talent show star turned busker with a big online following and a bigger chip on his shoulder about kicking the establishment firmly in its soft underbelly. With a corrupt media mogul and a bumbling London Mayor looking to milk the sporting circus for all it’s worth, he has a very big, very juicy target. But a very powerful and vengeful one too, especially where their daughters are concerned.

Who’s in it?

After picking up an Olivier Award in 2015 for his charismatic performance in Sunny Afternoon, the magnetic George Maguire’s back as Mac, channelling just a hint of Russell Brand into his strutting, arrogant, hype-believing, corporation-taunting street performer.

Bend It Like Beckham’s Lauren Samuels turns up the posh as Polly Peachum, daughter of said corrupt media magnate, showing off a delicious flare for comedy. Relative newcomer Natasha Cottriall gives it a wallop of Made In Chelsea drama and entitlement as Mayor’s daughter Lucy.

What should I look out for?

Dougal Irvine’s slick way with lyrics, from Love Song, which cuts through the sentimentality of such heart-swelling ditties to the reality of musical concoction, to Do You Want A Baby, Baby?, a declaration of pregnancy sung to a very captive audience. Irvine’s at his best when the lyrics make you titter.

Simon Kane’s Mayor Lockitt; he comes across as a bumbling fool, all floppy hair, Union Flag tie and Dad dancing. Any resemblance to any real persons is entirely coincidental…

In a nutshell?

Satiric with its lyrics and rhyming all the time(ing?), The Buskers Opera uses the London Olympics to take aim at many a target, and hits most with a thumping, tuneful thwack.

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Will I like it?

If you always suspected there was a whiff of the dodgy about the London Olympics, this will play right into your hands with its tale of corruption and the disregard for those who society has a responsibility to care for most.

But Irvine’s satirical sights don’t fall just on the politicians and overtly powerful. Campaign groups don’t get treated entirely kindly and even Macheath himself is very much the antihero, the motivation for his antics not necessarily aligning with the truth of his cause. When it comes to likeability, most of Irvine’s characters lead a lot to be desired.

Oh, and if you’re allergic to rhyme, be warned, the entire show plays out in rhyming couplets.

At its heart, which is very much in the right place, this is an exciting, vibrant new musical – in itself a cause for celebration – from a creator with something important to say. One hopes it has a longer life than a few of its characters.

The Buskers Opera plays at the Park Theatre until 4 June. You can book tickets through the show’s website.


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