The Beggar's Opera

by John Gay
May 18. 19, 20, 2006
Directed and Produced by Judith Watson
Musical Director Becky Price
Violin, Richard Heacock
Stage Manager, Geoff Stretton
Lighting by Alan Watson and Jonathan Partridge
Scenery by Judith Watson, Marie Eyes and Carrie Bedford

MacHeath's Gang, Ladies of the Town, Constables, Prisoners and other parts played by Paul Hammond, Gary Denby, Matthew Tasker, Ann Goodman, Louisa Welch, Faith Wilson, Don Hussey and The Beggar.

The famous parody of Italian Grand Opera,with pop music of the time, set in the London underworld of thieves, cut-throats, loose women and corrupt dealers in stolen goods. A smash hit in 1728 and revived regularly ever since.

The stage is empty, with an all purpose backdrop based on Hogarth's Gin Lane and Beer Alley. SL and SR are doorways, USL and USR are further entrances behind the leg curtains.
The rooms at Peacham's Lock are defined by the closure of grey travellers.
A set of low platforms form a set of steps at Newgate and these are re-arranged in the final scene to provide a gallows. A few tables, chairs and stools are used as general purpose furniture and these are moved into place for each scene by The Beggar,(Alan Watson) assisted by various members of the cast.
Changing the scene
Peacham and Filch

At his Lock (a warehouse of stolen goods) the villainous Mr Peacham (Mike Jackson) discusses the state of the thief-taking business with his servant Filch.

"'Tis woman who seduces all mankind"

Peacham and his wife (Sally Stretton) find out that their daughter, Polly (Michelle Mirams) has married the highwayman, Captain MacHeath. They fear that MacHeath will learn all their secrets and they will be hung for their crimes. They plan to have MacHeath arrested and executed, but Polly warns him and he disappears into London's underworld.

"How is a mother to be pitied who hath handsome daughters!"
Peacham and his wife berate their daughter Polly
MacHeath's gang of highwaymen at the tavern

In a tavern near Newgate prison, MacHeath's gang of thieves and highwaymen discuss the news while they wait for the Captain. (Gary Denby, Alan Watson, Paul Hammond and Matthew Tasker)

"Poor brother Tom had an accident... and now, poor man, he is among the otamies at Surgeons' Hall"

After his gang departs, MacHeath (Tim Williams) entertains the ladies of the town, but Jenny Diver (Sara McKay) and Suky Tawdrey (Faith Wilson) steal his pistols and betray him to Peacham and the constables. MacHeath is arrested and taken to Newgate.

"How fond could I be of you! But, before company, 'tis ill-bred."
Jenny and Suky disarm MacHeath
Lucy Lockit is furious with MacHeath

In Newgate prison, MacHeath is in the charge of the gaoler, Lockit, and also has to face the wrath of Lucy Lockit (Angela Danks), whom he has ruined.

In the background, prisoners played by Louisa Welch and Faith Wilson

"How cruel are the traitors, who lie and swear in jest
To cheat unguarded creaures, of virtue, fame and rest."

Lockit (David Eyes) and Peacham, partners in crime, decide to go halves on the reward money for MacHeath, but quarrel over other matters of business.

After some manhandling by the angry Lockit, Peacham retracks his accusations and the two are friends again.

"Mr Peacham, this is the first time my honour was ever called into question"
Lockit and Peacham
MacHeath. Lucy and Polly

Polly comes to visit MacHeath in prison and finds him in the arms of Lucy. Both ladies are furious.

"Perfidious wretch!"
"Barbarous husband!"

MacHeath sweet-talks Lucy into helping him escape. Lockit is in no doubt as to how his prisoner has got out of Newgate and he gives Lucy a piece of his mind.

"Thou wilt always be a vulgar slut, Lucy"
Lucy in trouble with her father
Peacham and Lockit with Mrs Trapes

Mrs Trapes (Alison Smith), a dealer in used, ie stolen, clothing, visits Peacham's house to buy goods and drink gin, but unwittingly reveals the whereabouts of MacHeath. Peacham and Lockit are delighted with the information.

"In the days of my youth, I could bill like a dove"

Lucy entertains Polly with a view to poisoning her rival, but the plan fails when MacHeath, once more in custody, returns to Newgate prison

"Come, sweet lass"
Lucy and Polly at Newgate
Polly and Lucy with MacHeath

Polly and Lucy commiserate with MacHeath and beg their respective fathers to save him, but in vain.

Far right, The Jailor (Don Hussey)

"Hither, dear husband, turn your eyes"
The Player and the Beggar

MacHeath is on the gallows. The Player (Matthew Tasker) insists that the opera ends happily. The Beggar is furious that his moral tale is to be perverted, but he allows MacHeath to survive.

"To make the piece perfect, I was for doing strict poetical justice"
The finale

MacHeath is reprieved, general rejoicing and he chooses Polly as his true wife.

"So, it seems, I must have a wife at last."

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There is a cd rom of photographs from the technical and dress rehearsals. If you would like a copy, please contact the committee.

Copyright © 2002. EydonPlayers
Revised --October 2011 Version 10a