The Threepenny Opera

First performed in 1928, The Threepenny Opera by Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill is updated and set in the near future at the coronation of Charles III for Bolton Octagon’s latest production.  The overall feel is gritty, urban, slightly dystopian.  The stage is scaffolded, the band above, the lower level entrance full width of the set through PVC strip curtains as you’d find in a factory or loading bay.  An orange LED information display shows contemporary news and introduces each scene and song.  This is a pessimistic, controlling future, one we should be wary of.

But whilst the themes of the exploitation of the poor by the rich are highly relevant, it’s a tricky ask to use a play structured around police/criminal collusion to explore today’s justice system.  More, the exploitation of beggars (today, read homeless) reinforces a negative image of those who beg rather than lampoon the rich.  Current events mean some of the darker themes of male control over women take on a new repulsion.  In the wake of the banking crisis there is perhaps more mileage to explore inequality, the rich/poor divide and the political power of the rich.

Threepenny Opera Production Photos
Photo Credit : The Other Richard

Still, this is a highly entertaining, well directed ‘play with songs’ with great pace.  Behind it all there is a knowing feel, an understanding that we are complicit in what we see.  This is a good cast with many strengths.  David Birrell drives the tempo as Macheath, although there are inconsistencies in his character, in violence, cruelty and sexually.  In contrast, Anna Wheatley’s modern day Polly Peachum finds a clever balance between naive and knowing.  A company of ten from ALRA create the large scenes well.  Live music is provided by the cast doubling up which worked well, although there was a lack of confidence at the start of some songs.

Well worth seeing,  a good night out with enough to make you wonder where our country is going.  But it’s not without its flaws.

Theatre lover, amateur director, occasional actor, writer.

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