Tuesday, 14 October 2008

The Convict's Opera

The Convict's Opera is adapted from The Beggar's Opera by John Gay. There are numerous adaptions of Gay's work, the most famous probably being The Threepenny Opera. The Beggar's Opera was first produced in 1728.

The Convict's Opera is set aboard a vessel carrying convicts to Sydney from Britain. The Captain has instructed some of the convicts to rehearse an entertainment as a means of distracting them during the long journey and keeping them occupied. The play switches between the relationships of the convicts and the tale being rehearsed in their entertainment.

According to the program, Gay's work was a new genre, the ballad opera, that has a claim as one of the antecedents of the modern stage musical. Gay's show used existing music to which he added his own lyrics.

The Convict's Opera follows a similar line using (I assume) the music and lyrics from Gay's work interspersed with modern songs such as We Are Sailing, You're So Vain, I Fought The Law and the Law Won with their lyrics adjusted to suit this work.

Mk and I attended the Sydney Theatre Company's production last night. It is a curious play. The first Act did not particularly interest me although I was impressed by the talent and efforts of the ensemble cast of ten. However, I found the distinction between the convicts' story and the play they were rehearsing blurred and confusing. The second Act, however, for reasons I cannot quite pinpoint was far more accessible for me. The dialogue sounded clearer, the modern songs seemed more fun and suitable to the action and the humour of the piece was more evident.

The actor seen in the middle of the photograph above wearing a hat is Juan Jackson. He was a magnificent sight possessed of a superbly sculpted body which was seen to best effect in the final scene when he appears on stage in a swimsuit. The following photograph shows Jackson as he appeared in the Australian production of Miss Saigon.

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