Inspired by The Beggar's Opera by John Gay
Directed by Saro Lusty-Cavallari
Produced by Imogen Gardam
Assistant Drector Mary Angley
With With Jack Dixon-Gunn, Laura McAloney, Sophie McCrae, Laura Strobech and Clare Taylor
"That Fucking Snare" composed by Justin Gardam
CAST & CREATIVES
Mary Angley - Assistant Director
Mary is an emerging theatre-maker with an interest in interactive, live story-telling. Hailing from Adelaide, she cut her directorial teeth working with local companies, Symposium Productions and The Raw Shakespeare Project on various Fringe productions, including Empty Vanity and When There’s No Strength in Men. While completing an Advanced Arts degree in English and Philosophy at The University of Adelaide, Mary developed an interest in the notion of ‘liveness’ and the unique opportunities it affords. This interest culminated in a practice-led Honours research project in which she directed an adaptation of Timon of Athens that allowed her to explore how site-specific techniques might be used to engage contemporary audiences with anachronistic texts. Mary is currently completing a Master of Directing for performance at the VCA. Through both her practice and her research, she attempts to the answer the question, ‘What can we do in theatre that we can’t do on a screen?’
Jack Dixon-Gunn - Peformer
Jack is a Melbourne local and a graduate of the Victorian College of the Arts. His credits include Stucley in Howard Barker’s The Castle, Claudio in Much Ado About Nothing and Joe, in Cifford Odette’s Golden Boy. His devising work extends from live art to site- specific performance, and he has particular passion for classical text and how it might be combined with new forms of theatre. Since becoming an actor Jack has worked with the National Theatre, Saint Martin’s Youth Ensemble and the Melbourne International Comedy Festival.
Imogen Gardam - Producer
Imogen Gardam is the co-director and co-founder of independent production collective Montague Basement, producing for the group works including Procne & Tereus (2014), All About Medea (2015), Tammy & Kite (2016), Metamorphoses (2016), Crave (2016) and Cleansed (2017) for the Sydney Fringe; Hamlet (2015), Macbeth (2016), and The Taming of the Shrew (2016) at PACT; Kaleidoscope (2016) at the Sydney Gay as Lesbian Mardi Gras; The Big Bruise (2016) at 107 Projects; Telescope (2016) at the Sight & Sound Festival in Leichardt; Before Lysistrata (2017) at KXT and a return season of Tammy & Kite (2017) for ATYP. She currently works at Bell Shakespeare across casting and contracting as Artistic Administrator. In 2018 Imogen was awarded the Rose Byrne Scholarship for an Emerging Female Arts Leader.
Saro Lusty-Cavallari - Director
Saro is a writer, director and designer and the co-director/co-founder of Montague Basement with which he wrote and directed Procne & Tereus (2014) and All About Medea (2015) for the Sydney Fringe and The Big Bruise (2016) at 107 Projects. He adapted and directed Hamlet (2015) and Macbeth (2016) at PACT, and designed Kaleidoscope (2016) and Telescope (2016) for the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras and Sight & Sound Festival in Leichardt respectively. He has also directed and performed with SUDS on multiple occasions. He devised and performed in Metamorphoses (2016) at the Sydney Fringe and directed Before Lysistrata (2017) for KXT and Sarah Kane’s Cleansed (2017) for the Sydney Fringe. He is currently studying for a Masters of Directing for Performance at the Victoria College of the Arts .
Laura McAloney - Performer
Laura is an acting graduate from the Victorian College of the Arts (VCA), based in Melbourne. Her stage credits include, Delilah (Left of Centre), Appropriate Kissing for All Occasions (ReAction Theatre), Do Not Collect $200 (dir Harley Hefford), Life on Repeat (dir. Justin Nott) No End of Blame (Bridget Balodis) and Charlotta in The Cherry Orchard (dir. Melanie Beddie). At the VCA, Laura was selected to tour Much Ado About Nothing to the International Shakespeare Festival in Germany, as Dogberry. Laura previously worked extensively with Zen Zen Zo Physical Theatre, and was selected for their Internship Program in Brisbane, under Lynne Bradley. She also completed a Bachelor of Performing Arts at Monash, here she was directed in shows by Leticia Cacares and Hallie Shellam. Most recently, Laura featured in DAVE, a new Pilot episode that aired in Channel Ten’s Pilot Week. She features as an AAMI girl in multiple AAMI TVC’s. Other film credits include: Web Series Smashed Avocado, The Dream of the Songstress (PTN Films), Black Dog (DB Films), and Nina Buxton’s Woof.
Laura Strobech - Performer
Laura Strøbech is an actor, vocalist, and performance artist based in Melbourne and Perth. She trained in opera at WAAPA before cutting her studies short to pursue acting at the Victorian College of the Arts. Her credits prior to the College include Coral in Michael Gow’s Away and Angie in Churchill’s Top Girls. Earlier this year Laura wrote, directed, and performed in collageN at the Perth Fringe Festival.
Sophie McCrae - Performer
Sophie McCrae is a Melbourne based actor, writer and voice over artist. Since graduating from Actor’s Centre Australia in 2015, Sophie has worked on numerous plays with The New Theatre, Sydney Fringe Festival, Melbourne Fringe Festival, immersive theatre works and numerous short films and music videos. She is also in the early stages of creating her own web series. Sophie has been invited to pursue her love of Shakespeare and study with Shakespeare & Company in the USA for the month of January next year. Sophie has been a proud member of MEAA since 2015.
Clare Taylor - Performer
Clare is a current student of the Victorian College of the Arts BFA (Theatre). After graduating high school in Sydney in 2017 she performed in ATYP’s 2018 Intersection: Chrysalis at the Griffin Theatre in Sydney. Throughout high school she did work experience with Sydney Theatre Company and was invited to play Louise in the NIDA Acting undergraduates’ performance of Sunday in the Park with George. Her writing has been published in Archer magazine, Bits and Bods and Farrago, as well as an ongoing column in The Footnotes online magazine
THE STORY SO FAR...
So you probably want an explanation for what exactly this show is.
Well to explain that we need to go back. Way back. Back to 1728.
In 1728 John Gay premiered The Beggar's Opera, a satire of Italian opera popular amongst the nobility that drew mainly on popular arias, songs and folk tunes for its melodies. The piece became one of the most popular plays of the 18th century and in many ways was the first ever 'jukebox musical'. Gay's combination of operatic conventions and popular music forms proved a hit with a diverse audience and this formal approach extended to the plot, which concerned itself with social inequality and populated the stage with rejects of society usually kept as far away from opera as possible. While Gay's approach to composition was something more akin to a mixtape compiler, the plot and character's were basically his creation. Overnight caracters such as Macheath and Polly Peachum became household names and variations on the plot would continue to be reinterpreted in Victorian penny dreadfuls and other adaptations.
Jump forward to 1927 Berlin and Elisabeth Hauptmann begins a German translation of Gay's text with no particular end goal in mind. However after showing the text to her partner Bertolt Brecht, he has an idea. Brecht has just been approached by a German producer who needs a quick and easy success and has tapped Brecht and his collaborator Kurt Weill to whip something together. Recognising the right kind of fable to express his recent conversion to Marxism, Brecht begins work on his own version of The Beggar's Opera with new songs by Weill. Not long before opening the title is changed to the now famous Threepenny Opera.
It's worth pausing to note how complex the issue of authorship already is. Gay's manuscript is original but pillages almost every form of popular music for its score. Meanwhile the question of Brecht's authorship is thornier. Brecht's reputation amongst his peers was contentious because of his recycling of narrative and careless interpolation of other's material. An avid cabaret fan, Brecht dismissed questions of authorship and originality and defended his approach of compiling and reinterpreting different sources to construct a new political statement. Furthermore Brecht's relationship with his collaborators throws notions of authorship further up in the air, particularly his habit of taking material from his numerous girlfriends - most notably Hauptmann. Who wrote what in The Threepenny Opera is an unresolved question; Hauptmann's name has been taken off and added back on over the years although she is now listed as a co-author (which coincidentally extends the copyright considerably as she died in 1971) and even Weill's contributions are disputed by friends of Brecht who say that he may have composed some of the music. This is all without even acknowledging the swathes of text that are direct translations of John Gay and some other English writers, including Rudyard Kipling. But of course this should have been immaterial; The Threepenny Opera was thrown together chaotically in a few months by young German artists arguing for a collectivisation of all property anyway...
Jump forward again to 2018 Melbourne and once again a young artist is pitching an adaptation of The Beggar's Opera to his partner in both life and art. When the director and co-creator Saro pitched the show as Montague Basement's Melbourne debut to producer Imogen, the idea was to adapt the plot quite liberally and keep the Weill melodies but with new lyrics. The thinking was that because Kurt Weill's work had passed into the public domain in Australia and Brecht's contributions didn't cover any of the characters or plot, an adaptation that didn't directly use any of Brecht's text would be fair game. In fact the most obvious piece of copyrighted material being employed was the title itself which elevated Brecht's version of The Beggar's Opera above that of his Antigone or Coriolanus.
The goal of the project was to return Threepenny to its roots. The roots of both Gay and Brecht. We had always found it a bit startling how much of a moneymaker this shambolic marxist musical had become in the modern theatre scene and so we wanted to try and bring the show back to its cabaret roots and let the political commentary cut through all the weimar chique that had built up around the play. What we didn't realise what that lucrative status of The Threepenny Opera would come back to bite us in a big way.
As the play developed with the cast it became less and less a performance of anything resembling either Gay or Brecht and more of a meditation on theatre and capitalism that used The Threepenny Opera as a provocation. The songs were still there but what had emerged was a chaotic and deconstructive collage of theatre, cabaret and performance art that became less a performance of The Threepenny Opera and more of a performance about our own failure to put on The Threepenny Opera.
And then we got the letter.
10 days before we were to open we awoke to a frighteningly specific letter from the Schott Music Corporation, representing both the estates of Weill and Brecht (and Hauptmann apparently), demanding we cancel the production immediately. In particular we were reprimanded for altering Weill's music into contemporary popular styles, our own publicity quotes thrown back at us. While we contacted a few people to test out the validity of our case (our argument was pretty good, apparently but not set in stone) we realised almost immediately that there was no point in risking a lawsuit that could destroy our already pretty vulnerable company. The Threepenny Opera: Adjusted For Inflation
But the thing was that we had already integrated so many metatheatrical elements into the show that we realised not only was almost all of the material salvageable; a cease and desist letter was exactly the final ingredient the show needed to tie together its loose series of comments on making art under late capitalism. As much as we mourned our amazing eletropop renditions of Pirate Jenny and Mac The Knife it became apparently immediately that the show we now had on our hands was better. A frightening letter from a lawyer came to feel like an inspiring session with a dramaturg.
And that is how The Public Domain Opera was born.
The Victorian College of the Arts