John Gay wrote The Beggar’s Opera in 1728 to reflect a London ridden with corrupt and dangerous politicians, inequality and violence. Not much has changed in those nearly 200 years, then. Kneehigh updates the story to a rundown coastal town where all the citizens resort to cold-hearted ruthlessness in the name of survival, resulting in an extravaganza of murder, betrayal and spectacle.
Last performed at the National Theatre, Simon Stephen’s Harper Regan is great at making an audience uncomfortable. His drawn-out scenes build tension to the point that it is totally unbearable, and Contentment Productions bring their own sense of intensity to this writing that for the most part works, but can sometimes feel slightly tired and draining for the audience.