Isango Ensemble, Film and Music Entertainment, Advantage pact to for next movie – The Beggar’s Opera to shoot in August in Cape Town

// 7th of February, 2015

The South African/UK-based trio screen Breathe-Umphefumlo in Official selection Berlinale Special tomorrow

Cape Town-based Isango Ensemble and Advantage Entertainment have joined forces once again with London’s Film and Music Entertainment on a brand new project, as well as a development slate for further films. The news comes hard on the heels of the announcement last week that Fortissimo Films have taken on international sales for their most recent co-venture Breathe-Umphefumlo an adaptation of Puccini’s La Boheme, which has its world premiere in Official Selection - Berlinale Special tomorrow.

Further to the partnership on La Boheme, the three companies will co-produce another classic from the canon of music John Gay’s The Beggar’s Opera to shoot in Cape Town in August.

The Beggar’s Opera, (Ibali Loo Tstotsi) loosely inspired by the very first ever ‘musical’ by John Gay. This time Isango will transport Gay’s 1728 satire/morality play to the jazzy Dockland underworld of 1950’s Cape Town - a place where nobody plays by the rules, least of all Macheath - bandit, hedonist, superhero to some, villain to others. Macheath has married Polly Peachum. But he fancies Lucy Lockit. Lucy Lockit fancies Macheath, but Polly doesn't want to share. Mr Peachum wants Macheath's head, and so does Mr Lockit. And so does the law. With so many enemies, it's hard to tell who your friends are.

In this new version by leading South African/British musical director Mark Dornford May, who won the Golden Bear in Berlin for his township adaptation of Bizet’s Carmen - U Carmen eKhayelitsha (also sold by Fortissimo), the old story is given new life in this dark, seedy, absurd, visually rich and cruelly comic world where men are men, women are women - and it’s dog eat dog!

"The Beggar’s Opera," said Dornford-May, "is a savagely funny satire on money, morals and marriage, -as relevant and biting today as it was when first written. Setting the film in post war colonial Cape Town will give it a visual style and a music flair that will inform the original - and take it further."

Of the stage show - The Guardian noted: " succeeds in catching the works switch in tone from carnivalesque to mock tragedy...I felt the work had acquired an urgent, specifically South African resonance... the singing is magnificent... I came out having had a thoroughly good time."

2015 will also see the Isango Company follow up their sell-out 2014 US tour with another visit to the United States, as well as an invitation to return to Paris in 2016 to revive their hugely successful stage version of Carmen at the site of its original performance at the Opera Comique in Paris. Discussions are also underway with the Benjamin Britten Foundation to stage Britten’s seminal adaptation (with a book by Peter Pears) of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

"We have a number of other film ideas in development," said F&ME producer Mike Downey, "and we will be pursuing these over the period that we will be making The Beggar’s Opera, including a unique idea Mark has to adapt Bram Stoker’s Dracula to a South African context. What is unusual and unique about the Isango Company, is that unlike other film collaborations it is a constant and ongoing creative hothouse of theatre, music and ideas which are constantly being work-shopped and developed, making it a rich creative and inspiring seam of potential movies."

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