The Beggars Opera

Date 14th November 2014
Society Betchworth Operatic & Dramatic Society
Venue Betchworth Village Memorial Hall
Type of Production Opera
Director Alison Cooper
Musical Director Ian Stone


Author: Lance Milton

John Gay would have stood, as I did, to applaud this incredible production of his Beggar's Opera with a fitting standing ovation!
In an age of so many 'operatic' societies producing contemporary, yet already trite musical comedy, with an ageing cast or waning material, rather than looking back over the vast and incredible library of opera and operetta open to them, Alison Cooper's production was a complete breath of fresh air. I have to confess to never having seen the piece in all my years as a NODA rep, mostly I imagine because few groups have the insight and passion to match BODS enthusiasm for the traditional.
Immediately one is immersed and drawn in as the audience are very much involved directly within the production and the voyeuristic empathy solicited by David Longes, in the title role, was as perfectly balanced as his witty delivery. I particularly loved that he also acted as the prompt and this worked seamlessly with all such interjections appearing quite deliberate and possibly directed - this would come as no surprise as Alison Coopers attention to detail was exquisite.
All principals were utterly first class. Trevor Allen [Mr. Peacham], Lorraine Lawrence [Polly Peacham], Linda Slater [Lucy Lockett] all gave great performances however I must single out the fabulous character and vocal delivery of Peter Thomas as MacHeath. Every time he appeared his persona dominated the stage, just as it should for this charismatic character. Similarly but with such delightfully rich delivery Sarah Haswell gave a tour de force performance as Mrs. Peacham, which was utterly captivating, both in character and the wonderfully supported operatic vocal performance, whose splendour would as effortlessly stand out within a professional opera production.
Ian Stone had clearly worked incredibly closely with a highly able cast and the solo keyboard delivery of his own arrangement of the score was both flowing and filled with detail while beautifully played entirely in harpsichord voicing. This leant to the era and feel of the piece. It was also very nice to note that Ian has a wonderful singing voice too, joining the company on at least one solo.
The set by Alison Cooper and built by stage manager, Martin Allitt and his team, along with lighting by David Ames all complimented and equalled the standard of the on stage performance, rounding off what was a truly outstanding piece of traditional satirical ballad opera. This is how it should be done!

Thank you to my welcoming host, Gini King, and the whole company of BODS for an enjoyable evening.