THE THREEPENNY OPERA
Director: Rufus Norris
Writers: Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill - adaptation by Simon Stephens
Runtime: 180 mins
Australian release date: 12 November 2016
Previewed at: The Ritz Cinema, Randwick, NSW, on 2 November 2016.
Once again the National Theatre Live brings a fabulous adaptation of 20th century musical theatre to the big screen with this production of The Threepenny Opera. It’s directed by Rufus Norris and conceived by Simon Stephens, and they’ve successfully created a dark, comic version of Brecht’s book and lyrics that zips along, accompanied by Kurt Weill’s complex, ground-breaking score.
The play is set in London, where the masses are preparing for a coronation. We are in the shadow of the beast, for the action focuses on the underbelly of English society, namely the whores, beggars and thieves who make their living on the streets. The main character is the amoral Macheath, aka ‘Mack the Knife’ (Rory Kinnear), a gang leader totally immersed, and thriving, in this den of iniquity. He loves the outlaw life and cannot bring himself to leave it, even when all is threatened - as it is after he ‘marries’ Polly Peacham (Rosalie Craig), whose cross-dressing father (Nick Holder) controls the city’s beggars and who’s not at all happy with their union. It seems that Macheath is a bit of a philanderer and he’s using Polly for her accounting skills to manage his ill-gotten gains.
The ensuing drama brings to light all the injustices inevitably perpetuated on the down-trodden and questions the morality of those who are more fortunate, asking who has the better principles in life? The leads are uniformly excellent but Kinnear’s performance in particular needs special praise - his Mack manages to be loathsome and appealing at one and the same time, a neat trick. The very talented ensemble plays a diverse collection of rumbustious whores, bent cops, prison guards and a variety of thieves, and includes a well-cast young disabled actor, Jamie Beddard, who gives a terrific performance as gang member Matthias, aka ‘The Shadow’.
The set provides a suitably sleazy background for “a cheap opera… a threepenny opera.” Furthermore, the musical contains filthy language and immoral behaviour and what could be more entertaining than that? This is a great romp on the dark side of life, one that seems fittingly apposite for these dark times.