The Beggar's Opera

Lindbury Theatre, Royal Opera House Covent Garden Winter 2009.

A romp, a wild and sexy romp. John Gay's ballad opera of 1728 in sleazy modern dress. This old work comes up from time to time, everyone tries hard to pretend it is a fine work, a first using the lower classes for opera, so always a very politically correct evening. In fact it isn't a very good work, without Benjamin Britten rewriting the music there would be little there at all. And certainly Kurt Weill made something seriously exciting out of the story in his Threepenny Opera. I wonder why the Royal. Opera didn't do that?

However the Lindbury, the studio theatre of the Royal Opera House, has put on a pretty fine show. The gloomy grey metal interior of the Lindbury is much improved by some red and gold mimicking of the interior of the main house. In fact they have covered the front of several of the tiers of grey metal with cast replicas of the front of he circles in the main house. Must have cost a fortune. Also there is a luscious red velvet curtain, which instead of having E.R 11 embroidered on it has C.R 111. Charles the Third Rex, showing us I suppose that the action is all happening in the future. You could have fooled me…

Yes, it was jolly; Britten's score played by the London Sinfonia is just fine. The production was supposed to be conducted by Richard Hickox, but he dropped dead last month, and will be greatly missed, so Christian Curnryn took his place and does very well. And what a lot of sound fourteen musicians can make!

The singers are excellent, as is their acting and dancing. Tom Randle in a blond wig, he is black, looked wild and wonderful and sang brilliantly. Sarah Fox's Lucy Lockit was superb, eight months pregnant with her tracksuit hung beneath her false belly. She acted everyone else off stage. Polly Peacham as a teenage is a bit odd, as she looks going on fifty, but who cares? It is theatre.

The action is lively but the additions of lots of girls done up as professional sex workers didn't really help. The usual English problem, no one ever quite manages to purvey sexiness, they come over as women working out in the local gym, and this despite the outrageous vestments showing tits and bums.

A very English evening, fun if you are around. Completely professional and full of jolly action, however give me Weill.

Polly Hope. London.