I found out something interesting during Charles Hazlewood’s haphazard, ensemble production of John Gay’s The Beggar’s Opera: I can only stomach the word ‘rebooted’ when applied to music once a day. Hazlewood used it no less than five time to describe his troupe interpretations of Gay’s hits. He also repeatedly reminded the audience that this way ‘wet clay’ and the raucous re-imaginings we were being treated to had emerged from only four days rehearsal. Well, I don’t know about you, but I don’t tend to pay £20 for wet clay. I like my clay carefully moulded, baked for a good while, painted, glazed and mounted on a shelf.
We’re fans of breaking down old classics and presenting them anew. But adding ‘false relations‘ all over the place and turning up the volume at climatic moments does not exciting new music make.
The venue was phenomenal. I was offered bar service six times in the time it took me to pay and await my drink. Really top notch.
I was a student not that long ago. I did music and drama, and was exposed to the 3am conversations at a social when the sensible people had gone home and the conversations suddenly got more intense than the worse for wear minds could handle. It was usually at those moments that someone announced they were considering directing an update of the Crucible with the speeches made by George W. Bush played in between scenes, or a gay version of Animal Farm, featuring full frontal nudity and set to the wartime soundtrack of Vera Lynn. So when watching this ‘updating’ of the Beggar’s opera I couldn’t help but remember those evenings, and the results that came of them 2 months down the line.
My major issue was that it felt like the thought process of putting on this event started in the middle, and didn’t really explore the concept and the reason behind it, or focus much on what the execution would look like. Much like a well meaning student production, I found it so difficult to concentrate on the inspiration and the obvious talents of those on stage, when all I could see and hear were the fundamental flaws of the performance. It wasn’t
an opera in presentation. Hazlewood’s orchestra sat, uncomfortably at the front of the stage singing original versions of the pieces, and then we heard new versions, performed in the style of Hendrix, country, and my unemployed neighbours at 1am most Thursday nights. In between these songs, Hazlewood would try and explain the story, the setting, the styles, the notes. It was a hard sell. He was bringing his many ideas to the audience and hoping someone would commission him. There were photos of people on a night out, unconscious, drunk, throwing up, and men in dresses. It was shouting ‘Hey, this is what the working class are like. They’re basically the “beggars” of today…”
We’ve been told that there are some exciting developments with this project. I hope it does develop. I hope it develops with someone who is able to reign the musicians in. Someone who is able to say ‘stick with this idea, but drop the twenty others you’ve thrown in’