By Arnold Hinchliffe
London 1776 “Man is born free but is everywhere in chains” (J-J Rousseau). In America the colonists have just raised the flag of revolt while in France the tottering ancien régime is nearing its end. In London, magnificent and miserable London, a formidably well-organised band of thieves led by Ne’er Hang Jack, terrorise the wealthy, combining violence with deep revolutionary convictions.
Masked by night among the people,
Monstrous rogues as all can see,
Till the cock crow from the steeple,
Time now to be free.
Into this lion’s den of tricksters, pickpockets, murderers and highwaymen comes Nell, a beautiful young provincial girl seeking her fortune…
This ballad opera, which works equally well as a play, tells a heart-rending story of passion, fear, treachery, cunning and idealism reminiscent of Brecht or Jean Genet at their best. It is probably Arnold Hinchliffe’s finest dramatic work.