THE BEGGARS OPERA

The Beggars Opera is one of the last examples of the once thriving genre of satirical ballad opera. It is a tale that focuses on the life of the poor. The opera is set in the underworld of London, It specifically focuses on a gang of highwaymen and a gang of Prostitutes who all work for the same man, Peachum.

Peachum is the wealthiest character in the opera. He controls the lives of the poor, when they are making him money they survive, as soon as they become useless he turns them into the law. Each way he makes money.

Previous to the opera’s beginning, Peachum’s daughter Polly has married one of the highwaymen; Macheath. This causes arguments within the family, which leads to Mr and Mrs Peachum plotting to turn in Macheath. This moment is what prompts the rest of the opera. We see Macheath behind bars, where the sailors daughter; Lucy, interacts with him.  We discover they were ex- lovers which then creates tension between Polly and Lucy. Lucy has access to the keys to Macheath’s cell, and although she hates him for ruining her and not marrying her, she lets him go. He is caught again and thrown back into jail.

What Is also interesting about this play is that it is introduced by 2 characters; The beggar and The Player. These characters are only seen in the first and penultimate scene. The last time they are seen is after the play has finished, which sees Macheath go to the gallows. They discuss this scene and then revise it to a happier ending. I think that these two characters make the play more interesting, but also easier to watch.

 

18th CENTURY THEATRE

This term our focus is 18th Century theatre. We have been given the choice between two plays from the era to design for. The designs will be for the RSC’s Swan Theatre in Stratford-Upon-Avon.

The two plays we have been given are ‘The Recruiting Officer’ by George Farquhar (1706) and ‘The Beggars Opera’ By John Gay (1728). Both the plays explore ideas of class however both are very different.

The play I have decided to focus on is ‘The Beggars Opera’, this is because I think the play is the more interesting of the two and so has more to play with. In reading the play a key theme of rebellion stands out to me, and so has led me to consider trying to incorporate the 1970s subculture of the Punk movement into my design scheme. I think that this could give the show an edge and also make it more relatable to modern culture.

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Hogarth’s Beggars Opera etching