Casting has been revealed for The Buskers Opera, a brand new musical from the pen of Dougal Irvine (Departure Lounge, The Snow Queen, Britain’s Got Bhangra), which will open at Park Theatre on 28 April and play until 4 June, with a press night on 5 May.
The Buskers Opera will star Olivier Award-winning George Maguire (Best Supporting Actor in a Musical Award for Sunny Afternoon) as Macheath, and Lauren Samuels (Bend it Like Beckham, Grease, We Will Rock You) as Polly Peachum. Other cast members include Natasha Cottriall (Into the Woods, Future Conditional) as Lucy Lockitt, John McCrea as Filtch, Maimuna Memon as Jenny Diver/Dissenter/Beggar, and Giovanna Ryan as Susan/Beggar/Dissenter.
Directed by Lotte Wakeham (Matilda, Sweet Charity, The Other School by Dougal Irvine), the production has musical direction by Sean Green, lighting design by Christopher Nairne, sound design by Andy Graham and musical staging and choreography by Lucie Pankhurst.
Elements of the piece have been workshopped with Cardboard Citizens who have been making life-changing theatre with people who have experienced homelessness, or are at risk of homelessness, for nearly 25 years. It was in such a session that the creative team discovered actor and songwriter Ishmael Gander who also will be part of the company, playing Matt/Dissenter/Beggar.
London 2012. The world is watching. Can the city deliver the greatest Olympics ever? Pulling the strings is media mogul, broadcaster and puppet master, Jeremiah Peachum. Together with his star of the show, Lockitt, the Mayor of London, they are perfectly placed to capitalise on Team GB’s gold and drive their political agenda across the finish line. Enter satirical street busker Macheath and his gang of dissenters ‘The Ninety Nine Percenters’. They’re the talk of the town – out to take the fat cats down – and it’s working! This time, Mac may have bitten off more than he can chew. But it’s the 21st century – you can’t kill a man for singing a few songs, drinking a few beers, inciting political activism in hundreds of thousands of people and sleeping with your daughter. Or can you? With the ever-influential media operating 24/7, capital punishment needs to find a new method of delivery…
A competition was launched in December for set design submissions from students at the University of the Arts – next door to Park Theatre – and following a public display of submissions in the theatre and a public vote, the winning entry was chosen from 2nd year student Anna Kezia Williams. Anna will be mentored by leading set and costume designer David Woodhead and her deisgn realised for the stage, providing a great opportunity for emerging talent to develop their craft.
Irvine said: “I started writing The Buskers Opera during the winter of 2011, when the feeling in London was overwhelmingly anti-Olympics. They were costing too much, there was too much corporate sponsorship, locals were being priced out of Stratford by property tycoons. Then, as the Games kicked off, my cynicism vanished. I wept when Mo Farah won his second gold medal. I remember smiling at strangers in the street for weeks afterwards. There was a palpable sense of change in the city. A real feeling of community. London was truly great! Yet as the months drew on, I watched homeless numbers continuing to rise, the spikes appearing in doorways, the cuts to public services, the food banks springing up in response to need. I recalled my earlier scepticism and wondered who was really benefitting from the Golden Games.
“I went back to a new draft. If The Buskers Opera was going to speak into this legacy, it had to be about more than soap box preaching. I had to ask serious questions of myself and the way I made theatre. It had to be about doing things differently, about stepping outside the standard structures of making a musical. This lead me to workshopping some of the show with Cardboard Citizens and eventually casting a young member of their company, Ishmael Gander, in his first professional theatre job. My producers were wonderful at embracing the production ethos wholeheartedly. It’s made life difficult at times, but I think the hard work has lead to a show which audiences, yes, will hopefully enjoy and laugh at and clap along with, but that also will encourage them to look past the glitz and glamour and discover for themselves the mechanisms pulling the strings.”
The Buskers Opera is presented by Michael Peavoy, Neil Marcus and Paul Tyrer & Jamie Clark for Buskers Opera Ltd in association with Park Theatre.