This latest manifestation of The Beggar's Opera, Jon Gay's satirical ballad opus, could not be finer *****
"JON GAY'S satirical ballad opus, The Beggar's Opera, a definitive quest for truth amid massive corruption, has been constantly adapted over almost three centuries. Mainly because it has never lacked a contemporary parallel.
And this latest manifestation of "a fine moral tale of highwaymen and whores" with “the muses of the gods flow(ing) through every man,” could not be finer.
Indeed, it is stupendous – the quality amalgam of music, song, ensemble discipline, and wonderfully dexterous puppetry, of a standard not seen here since The Tiger Lillies' eventually globe - trotting production of Shockheaded Peter at the Royal Court 16 years ago.
Now we can but similarly await the show CD and touring plaudits.
Here, Macheath, the original terror of the Tudor bye-ways (and the later Mack the Knife, of Brecht's Threepenny Opera) is transformed into a philandering urban assassin who unleashes political mayhem as a prelude to a fixed mayoral election, as well as heaping ashes on his own head with double marriages of convenience to unsuspecting and largely innocent young women.
"Here's the surest betting: once seen, this show must be seen again... and yet again. It's that good."
Dominic Marsh manages to imbue this trickster with the necessary glamour to make him the epitome of everything in life's short-term which can be bought or fixed. Not that he is surrounded by the merest slither of piety within the establishment.
The two other stand-out performances are from Rina Fatania as the mayoral pretender's domineering and scheming spouse, and Giles King as the even more corrupt self-seeking chief of police.
Mike Shepherd's triumphant production for the Cornish-based Kneehigh company he founded more than 30 years ago, is nevertheless an ensemble effort in the best and truest sense.
The set design adds to the rough and tumble, with an oft-used slide from an upper gantry symbolic of the descent into the sort of social chaos which still plagues us today.
Binding all this together is Charles Hazlewood's wonderful score – performed and sung by the actors – which shows both quality and originality, while at the same time occasionally doffing its cap, as did Jon Gay, to the music of Henry Purcell and his contemporary harmonists.
Here's the surest betting: once seen, this show must be seen again... and yet again. It's that good."