The London theater season seems to be off to an uneasy start this year with Poppy, a major musical at the Royal Shakespeare Company’s new home in the Barbican Theater. Its book and lyrics are by Peter Nichols, author of The National Health and A Day in the Death of Joe Egg, and its music is by Monty Norman, best known for his theme for the James Bond movies. Poppy adapts for the musical stage a rough outline of the history of the English Opium Wars with China in the reign of Queen Victoria.

The story it tells is one of hypocrisy and exploitation: of how, in order to provide a market for the opium produced by sharecroppers in their Indian domains, the Victorians encouraged opium addiction in China; of how, when the Chinese Emperor attempted to obstruct the importation of opium, English guns were brought to bear against Chinese crossbows; and of how, in the conflict which raged on and off for...


A Message from the Editors

Our past successes are owed to our greatest ambassadors: our readers. Our future rests on your support, as The New Criterion Editor Roger Kimball explains. Will you help us continue to bring our incisive review of the arts and culture to the next generation of readers?

Popular Right Now