The Beggar’s Opera ~ Storyhouse Theatre, Chester

Beggar’s Opera run at Storyhouse Theatre 19 August 2017 The Beggar’s Opera Tickets

Star rating: *****

Bawdy, brutal, a rollicking good ride of a show with fantastic vocals from all cast members and a script filled with local, relevant references – making a classic piece a very current piece. The Beggar’s Opera is a musical based in 18th century Chester with a varied mixture of genres of music giving edge, energy and substance to it.

The tale of Mac (Macheath) The Knife (Alex Mugnaioni) is at the root of the plot, he’s putting himself about all over town while he’s supposedly engaged to Polly Peachum (Charlotte Miranda-Smith) and knocked up Lucy Lockit (Nancy Sullivan) yet he’s regularly cavorting with prostitutes and not Son-in-Law material as far as Polly and Lucy’s father’s are concerned. That’s because Peachum (Daniel Goode) and Lockit (Jonathan Dryden Taylor) are involved with Macheath in so much as they pocket the belongings of the victims Macheath. The fathers decide to close in on Macheath and hatch a plan to have him hung. However with two love-struck females desperate to be loved by him, the one thing that slippery Macheath has is people on his side, to begin with at least! Add to the mix Mrs Peachum, who is the epitome of Madame Therardier from Les Miserables, devoted to her husband who appears to have an inappropriate lust for his own daughter, Polly.

The set provided its own ambience and was atmospheric to the extreme, it even felt as though there was a musty stench in the air which is what one would expect from the era and location of the story. There was also an excellent array of audience interaction which was innovative in itself.

Alex Mugnaioni gave a stellar performance as Macheath, he was sly, cunning and occasionally quite ditzy in his manner which gave delightful nuances to the character. Daniel Goode was over-bearing and wickedly crooked as Peachum, he has excellent chemistry with Charlotte Gorton who played his wife as well as two other characters, Mrs Vixen and Mrs Trapes. Considering that Gorton was playing three different characters in total, I occasionally had to do a double take because she played each one so vastly differently. She’s the proverbial chameleon and an extremely strong member of the ensemble. Nancy Sullivan performed the role of Lucy Lockit with sharp comic timing combined with a level of emotion appropriate to a girl in Lucy’s predicament. Charlotte Miranda-Smith played Polly in stark contrast to her love rival, simpering, sweet and slightly dim at certain junctures! Jonathan Dryden Taylor also put in a strong performance as Lockit and he had some delightful scences with Goode as Peachum.

It’s a piece that’s stood the test of time and the fact that actor-musos were used provided an extra dimension to what was already a fantastic night at the theatre. A must-see which offers a modern take on the 18th century!


Alice In Wonderland ~ Grosvenor Park Open Air Theatre, Chester

Alice In Wonderland runs at Grosvenor Park Open Air Theatre, Chester until 20 August 2017 – book here: Alice In Wonderland Tickets

Star rating: *****

I’ve seen Alice In Wonderland in almost every incarnation, now and watching this version, adapted by Glyn Maxwell, in the glorious open air setting of Grosvenor Park Open Air Theatre was a real treat. It’s set in the round with a fairly moderate space for the action to occur in but plenty of opportunities for the cast to interact with the audience and make appearances sitting beside the unwitting theatre-goers. It all added to the fun and made for an energetic, exciting and unpredictable Alice In Wonderland – and given that unpredictability is at the heart of the story, the direction by Derek Bond has proved to be exceedingly on point.

This particular version follows Alicia (Anna Leong Brophy) as she worries about going to school and is confronted with Alice (Rebecca Birch) who proceeds to chase after the White Rabbit (Tom Connor). There’s excellent use of large prop letters which form the word ‘Wonderland’ as Alice goes about her adventure, encountering all the usual suspects, The Mad Hatter (Alex Mugnaioni), a rather sporty Duchess (Charlotte Gorton), three sneering school girl flowers, the science teacher in the form of the caterpillar (Jonathan Dryden Taylor) and Humpty Dumpty (Daniel Goode), who is rather well to do and was obviously laid with a silver spoon in his mouth!

The costumes are notable, they add to the ambience of the piece and I have to add that it poured with rain during the second half and they bravely soldiered on – with Alicia becoming extremely soaked in her white nightdress! The Mad Hatter’s tea party table is also a wonder in itself and extremely cleverly assembled, so basic yet so effective.

The cast work together amazingly well as an ensemble, they’re a tight unit and all exceptional in their roles. Rebecca Birch is a fun and frivolous Alice while Anna Leong Brophy is a serious and emotional Alicia. Charlotte Gorton puts in an incredible performance as the Duchess, high kicks, cartwheels and long strides – a real physical portrayal, she also shines as Alicia’s mother. Alex Mugnaioni is wondrously mad as the Mad Hatter and Tom Connor is a skittish White Rabbit and also brings hilarious madness to the March Hair. Daniel Goode as Humpty Dumpty was one of my personal highlights, his toffee-nosed accent was such stark contrast to his appearance. Jonathan Dryden Taylor was laid back to the extreme as the Caterpillar and fantastically ditzy as the King. Most of the cast played multiple roles and were adept at putting different characterisation into each part that they performed as.

It’s a show not to be missed, my favourite incarnation of the story to date and I could watch it again and again if offered the opportunity! I recommend that you embrace the open air setting and head to Chester by 20 August!


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