“But why are the sets being shown, why do they yell “scene change” and “interval””? A spectator asks their companion behind me as I sit in the Olivier Theatre.
Well, dear audience member, this is Brecht. Or, a slice of what it could be.
Norris’s production of Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill’s Threepenny Opera branches the gap between its Brechtain influences and a show which fulfills the expectation of theatre-goers at such a distinguished place as the National. The scenery is set-up in front of us at the beginning of the show, and props are labelled, such as ‘big flag for scene 7’, ‘the pink envelope’, and ‘drugs’. Red wool is used to represent blood. Having studied the play last year, it was nice to see some interpretation of it at last, and the fourth wall was broken plenty of times, to my delight. In fact, even the house lights seemed to have been dimmed and lightened throughout the show.
Rory Kinnear’s portrayal of the criminal MacHeath sees him lashing his tongue over his lips and thin moustache, with darting eyes and an East London accent which occassionally falters.However, his singing was a surprise, and he handles his songs incredibly well. His newly-wed wife, Polly Peachum, is reinvented as an accountant, and Rosalie Craig’s interpretation of her is a delight to watch. She is chipper despite the dark situations faced with, and her vocal ability is astounding. Her “Jealousy Duet” with Lucy (Debbie Kurup)is the standout moment of the show, with both ladies hitting every single note and making it look easy.
Nick Holder, strutting in a suit, bobbed wig and kitten heels is fantastic as Peachum, and delivers some fantastic one-liners. Sharon Small, also, has a star turn as Jenny Diver. The company as a whole, actually, works very well as an ensemble and there seem to be no weak links.
Of course, the production is not entirely Brechtian, due to the large rotating set, which itself is pretty makeshift and ‘falls’ a couple of times, and the simple yet characterised costumes make Weill’s score appear more musical than opera. But it somehow works. The nods to the audience make us laugh again and again, and the rotating set with many people moving through and climbing on it is a visual feast for the eyes. The band, too, is wonderful, and their bows with solemn faces are a hilarious touch.
The entire production is a beast. It is dirty, swear-y, dark, and gory, and is a wonder to watch. It’s great to have a different style of drama at the National that perhaps doesn’t sit well with most audiences due to its strange conventions, but is nonetheless enjoyable and fun to watch.