Olivier Award winner George Maguire and Bend It Like Beckham star Lauren Samuels will lead the cast of The Buskers Opera, a brand new musical that will premiere at the Park Theatre later this year.
Dougal Irvine’s 2012 Olympics-set piece will play at the Finsbury Park venue from 28 April until 4 June under the director of Lotte Wakeham.
Maguire, who joined the prestigious ranks of Olivier Award winners last year for his acclaimed role in Sunny Afternoon, will star as Macheath, a satirical street busker who leads a gang of dissenters called The Ninety Nine Percenters. With the city of London busy attempting to pull off the greatest Olympics in history, they’re capitalising on the event to take the fat cats down.
But with media mogul, broadcaster and puppet master, Jeremiah Peachum and Lockitt, the Mayor of London, pulling the political strings, this time Mac may have bitten off more than he can chew.
Samuels, who came to fame as an Over The Rainbow finalist and has subsequently starred in West End productions of Grease and We Will Rock You, will take on the role of Jeremiah’s daughter and the object of Macheath’s affections Polly Peachum.
Speaking about the inspiration behind the piece, Irvine explained: “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….
“And 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.”
One of the ways in which the company have stepped outside the norm is to recruit their designer, Anna Kezia Williams, through a competition with the Park Theatre’s neighbours, the University of the Arts. Irvine also worked with acclaimed homeless theatre company Cardboard Citizens to workshop elements of the production, which resulted in the discovery of actor Ishmael Gander, who will appear as part of the company.
Joining Maguire, Samuels and Gander are Natasha Cottriall, John McCrea, Maimuna Memonas and Giovanna Ryan, who complete the cast.
If The Buskers Opera was going to speak into [the Olympics'] 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."