The Busker’s Opera, Park Theatre, review: ‘Satire of London Olympics’

Lauren Samuels and George Maguire in The Busker's Opera. Picture: Simon Annand

Lauren Samuels and George Maguire in The Busker's Opera. Picture: Simon Annand - Credit: Simon Annand

Dougal Irvine’s new musical The Buskers Opera opens with a chorus boldly claiming the show is heir to John Gay’s The Beggar’s Opera (1728) and Brecht’s Threepenny Opera (1928).

But then there’s nothing remotely retiring about Irvine’s exuberant satire on contemporary London.

As one character states with commendable ferocity: “The greatest thing you’ll ever learn is don’t be poor. You are what you earn.” Irvine returns to the 2012 Olympics to make his point.

London has a two-tier society with fast-track housing built around the games to accommodate a newly elite demographic.

The narrative is creaky. Macheath, played by Olivier Award-winner George Maguire, is conceived as a rebel who vlogs his diatribes to a devoted following of activists.

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Resembling Russell Brand and sporting a sinister smear of Clockwork Orange eye make-up, Maguire skitters about seducing multiple women including the Mayor’s tabloid obsessed daughter Lucy (a mesmerizing Natasha Cottriall who steals the show with the punchy Do You Want a Baby, Baby), and Polly Peacham (Lauren Samuels), the mystical tearaway of a media mogul. Old Etonian Mayor Lockitt (Simon Kane) prances about the stage in bicycle clips, his ginger mop of hair flopping to the beats. Guess who?

The second half revolves around a convoluted identity plotline that doesn’t allow Maguire to show off his talents. The political conclusion is rousing but simplistic.

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Despite its flaws, over two hours of rhyming couplets never tires and the wit is dazzling.

Accompanied by a three-piece on stage band, the talented ensemble ensures the rough and ready energy soars. As directed by Lotte Wakeham, the pace is so fast that some lines get lost but the raw urgency of the message hits home.

The Busker’s Opera is at The Park Theatre.

Rating: 4/5 stars.

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