"Fiendishly clever...extraordinary...a constant barrage of visual, theatrical and musical surprises" *****
"Do we need a new Beggar’s Opera? Most certainly when it’s Kneehigh’s fiendishly clever re-write of John Gay’s scabrous satire on the human capacity for corruption. Carl Grose’s script and Charles Hazlewood’s extraordinary score take Gay’s murk-ridden milieu of thievery and debauchery several stages further to arrive in our own murky times, jumbling urban folklore and an evil-versus-evil plot with a rogue’s gallery of shabby characters and a constant barrage of visual, theatrical and musical surprises.
In this apocalyptic vision of a morally ambiguous world created by Kneehigh joint artistic director Mike Shepherd and his ensemble cast, Macheath, the Peachums and the Lockets have never had it so bad. And the Brecht-Weil Ballad of Mack the Knife will now seem rather passe after being faced with the brazen cheek of Hazlewood’s titular “other love songs” - a shameless ransacking of just about every non-musical theatre genre going, from grime and punk to the nutty sounds of Madness and the celestial airs of Purcell.
With flashing lights and lots of hazy smoke, the production takes full advantage of the new Everyman’s state-of-the-art technical capabilities. But perhaps there’s doomsday overkill in a climactic coup de theatre finale semaphoring dark times ahead and that we’re heading for certain extinction unless humankind changes its wicked ways.
Still, at least most of the sinners depicted on stage - especially Dominic Marsh’s malevolent Macheath, Rina Fatania’s putrid Mrs Peachum, Martin Hyder’s poisonous Les Peachum and even some of Sarah Wright’s parallel cast of nightmarish puppets - end up going to hell in a handcart."