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The Beggar’s Opera review at Storyhouse, Chester – ‘a bold statement’

The cast of The Beggar's Opera at Storyhouse. Photo: Mark Carline The cast of The Beggar's Opera at Storyhouse. Photo: Mark Carline
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Storyhouse artistic director Alex Clifton could hardly have chosen a more appropriate work to open his astonishingly shape-shifting new theatre space in Chester’s former Odeon Cinema: The Beggar’s Opera – one of the most adaptable and adapted of all plays.

Glyn Maxwell’s version of the 18th century classic successfully sets itself both in the past and the present. Harry Blake’s music is unashamedly modern amid the baroque stage and costume designs. There is an earthy northernness in the dialogue and dialects, with an unselfconscious scattering of regional references, written to engage directly with the local audience.

The production begins as the beggar stumbles in, as if from the street, to disturb a harpsichord player performing onstage. This opening scene is a gesture writ large to underpin the ethos of the new theatre space. This building is about ordinary people telling their own stories.

The Beggar’s Opera is the only piece in the opening season that the company will not transfer to the open air stage at Grosvenor Park in the summer. Clifton’s production shows off the full dynamic of the thrust stage and some of what lies beyond, with a detailed piece of set to the rear, beneath the fly tower.

The ensemble cast are excellent, with splendid performances from Daniel Goode, Jonathan Dryden Taylor and Alex Mugnaioni as Peachum, Lockit and Macheath, but the show really belongs to Charlotte Miranda-Smith and Nancy Sullivan for their unforgettable double-act as Polly Peachum and Lucy Lockit.

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Storyhouse makes a bold, community-embracing statement with its time-bending opening production