Sunday, 28 August 2016

'The Threepenny Opera' National Theatre, Olivier ****

To those who are currently training in theatre or to those who have been trained in the performing arts, we all have either productions or practitioners who have inspired us to get into it in the first place one way or another, and for me Bertolt Brecht and his Epic Theatre was what galvanized my passion for theatre in the first place. The National Theatre’s production of Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill’s 1920’s musical, ‘The Threepenny Opera was such a masterpiece of a revival and adapted so well by Simon Stephens, as well as, the delivery of the depictions were impressively conveyed throughout.

‘The Threepenny Opera’ is set in East London where we are habituated with crook, Captain Macheath AKA ‘Mack the Knife’ who has just become married to Polly Peachum and due to this, her father, Jonathan Jeremiah Peachum is frustrated that his own daughter has become the spouse of a crook. In order to wreak revenge of Macheath for marrying his daughter; as such, Peachum forms allegiances with Chief Inspector ‘Tiger’ Brown (Peter de Jersey) to get him arrested for his crimes, nonetheless, he was once one of Macheath’s former army colleagues. Over the course of the performance, we can obviously see that the nuptials between Macheath and Polly is not that truthful as Macheath is involved sexually with prostitutes and appears that Macheath will never be trusted especially in the company of women. In addition to this, Macheath is told by his wife, Polly that her father and mother, Celia Peachum (Haydn Gwynn) are conspiring against him and will get him arrested and eventually be hung for his acts of criminality and he has to depart London so this doesn’t occur. Due to this he states to his gang, Robert AKA The Iceman (Dominic Tighe), Matthia AKA The Shadow (Jamie Beddard) and Walter AKA The Scholar (Andrew Buckley) that his wife will be in charge whilst he is away.  Prior to his departure, he visits his favourite brothel and says a fond farewell to his ex-girlfriend, Jenny Diver (Sharon Small), on the other hand, she has deceived him and is involved with police and Peachum’s quest  to have him arrested and therefore he is captured and taken to jail and face his fate.  Throughout the performance, we see that there could be a cat fight between Polly and Lucy, another one of Macheath’s conquests specifically when they see him in jail at the very same time. Macheath escapes his incarceration, but as soon as he is recaptured rather rapidly and due to the fact that Jenny is being paid by the Peachum’s, yet they won’t pay her and slam the door in her face. Macheath, who is back in prison is notified that he will be executed and he begs his gang members and wife to pay for him to not be hanged, nevertheless, no one will help him and at the finale, he prepares to face his ultimate destiny and luckily enough for him the queen pardons him and he is then released and sent on his way out of the jail. Brecht and Weill’s narrative is pretty amazing as there are a lot of Epic Theatre techniques present in the plot such as sets being used only once and constantly being reminded that we are in a theatre space etc. Moreover, musical numbers like, “Cannon Song”, “Jealousy Duel”. “Song of the Insufficiency of Human Struggling” and “Cell from the Grave” added a lot of spectacle to the whole to do.

One found the performances by the company of, ‘The Threepenny Opera’ to be exceedingly charismatic and brilliantly thorough with regards to the vocal abilities and the execution of the movement sequences. Rory Kinnear is outstanding as central character, Captain Macheath; expressly how we see that his love life is rather complicated and because he has just become married, we know that this marriage could just be a stunt, then again, when he is near his final few seconds, you can see there’s a hint of remorse for what he has done in his life.  Nick Holder is tremendous as the large, Jonathan Peachum; mainly the moment where he does a sequence that involves him wearing high heeled shoes and he does this with such poise and elegance and to be honest he was so light on his feet and appeared natural wearing them. Rosalie Craig is excellent as Macheath’s new wife, Polly; for example how somebody who does have the facial features and personality that is rather geeky can actually be married to a man such as Macheath, on the contrary, you can see that there is an inner strength when she refused to offer her husband any money and leave him to perish.  Debbie Kurup is wondrous as Macheath’s supposed girlfriend, Lucy Brown; predominantly the fact that she has a fearless nature and is not afraid to be so harsh and ballsy to Polly and there is a tense atmosphere that is shown through her personality. 

Rufus Norris’ direction is incredible here as he has been able to transport us to an era of theatre that made you question what you had seen which is another one of Brecht’s Epic techniques and a revival that shows how gangsters can actually be given their comeuppance, furthermore, with Imogen Knight’s choreography, there is a slight modern twist to the dance arrangements yet with the expressionist detailing. Vicki Mortimer’s design is joyous as she has been able to capture the whole Brechtain atmosphere to an audience who may not be aware to what a revolutionary he was in theatre as a whole and I was taken through Macheath’s journey from marriage to his near death expeience and this is done by fantastic scenic welding and construction and simple scenic art and just great. Overall, the experience of, ‘The Threepenny Opera’ was a production that excited me actually brought me back to my GCSE Drama days and leaning about Bertolt Brecht and Epic Theatre from the phenomenal teacher that is, Kate Soper.

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