The Threepenny opera is a musical by writer Bertolt Brecht and composer Kurt Weill, and was adapted from John Gay’s The Beggar’s Opera. It was first performed in 1928 in Berlin, and tells the tale of a gangster called Macheath (Mack the knife) and his various lovers. Mack has stolen away to marry Polly Peachum, the daughter of the beggar king, Jeremiah Peachum. Jeremiah tries to find a way to get revenge on Mack for stealing his daughter, and sets out to have him arrested and claim the reward for his capture, but can the police hold Mack?
This is a loud, brash and fun performance of the piece, that never lets you dwell on anything, constantly forging onwards. The strong cast of 19 performers, often all on stage together, scurry and dance around the set and into the side aisles of the theatre in well choreographed scenes. Director Wayne Jordan makes full use of the space, and brings the cast down into the auditorium on occasion and through the various exits. The play draws on the mad cap imagery of silent movies, and the movement of the cast seem to encapsulate this. The piece starts slow and left me wondering how it would hold together, but had won me over by the interval and for the final act. While Kurt Weill’s music may not be to everyone’s taste, it does include standards such as ‘Pirate Jenny’ and ‘Mack the Knife’, which is an infectious tune.
The set is simple, and the scene is often set through use of curtains that are pulled between parts of the stage and the small amount of furniture the actors carry with them onto the set. A large portion of the stage is taken up by the 8 piece band at the rear, so the action takes place in the foreground. Lighting also plays a key role in the performance, and Lighting designer Simon Mills has done well to bring the air of vaudeville into the proceedings.
This is a strong ensemble cast, with fine performances throughout and even some of the smaller roles bring a smile to your face. They make good use of the cast members, and many of the performers play various roles, some of them quite unlikely as gangsters are turned into prostitutes at times! This is a rich and impressive show that would be hard not to enjoy, and would serve as a good introduction to Brecht, but should have enough for aficionados also.
Duration: 3 hours including interval.
The Threepenny Opera opens tonight (01/10/13) at the Gate Theatre. This review is based on the final preview.
Director Wayne Jordan
Musical Director Cathal Synnott
Assistant to the Director Sarah Baxter
Set Designer Ciarán O’Melia
Lighting Designer Simon Mills
Costume Designer Catherine Fay
Choreographer Philip Connaughton
Karen Ardiff, Stephen Brennan, Philip Connaughton, Muiris Crowley, Hilda Fay, David Ganly, Rachel Gleeson, Aaron Heffernan, Bosco Hogan, Laurence Kinlan, Emmet Kirwan, Jackie Marks, Charlotte McCurry, Ruth McGill, Aoibhinn McGinnity, Bill Murphy, Valerie O’Connor, Mark O’Regan, David Shannon
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