I wish I could own the expression “Threepenny Dreadful” to summarise The National Theatre’s production of Bertold Brecht’s Threepenny Opera but, alas, Variety Magazine beat me to it (by the way, I don’t agree with their critique of the show, I thought it was excellent and looking at the feedback on twitter I am not the only one to think so).
I am one of those annoying people who didn’t pay much attention at school when Bertold Brecht was discussed and now has a lot of catching up to do to get up to speed with 1920s German theatre (which is the normal topic of conversation at the dinner table).
So here I am at the National Theatre for Threepenny Opera, lured in by the charming Rory Kinnear. Yes, I am also one of those annoying people who are suckers for TV series like Penny Dreadful and want to see their lead actors treading the boards. Sitting three rows from the stage (those were 3 pennies spent wisely with a Travelex advance booking!) I was within spitting distance from the actors (and lots of spitting there was, including a makeshift spew of digestive juices from Mrs Peachum using a fire estinguisher). The staging was stripped bare and inventive, in a way reminiscent of those Penny Dreadful’s scenes at the Grand Guignol theatre. I particularly enjoyed the reference to Buster Keaton’s scene from Steamboat Bill Jr. with a house falling over him. I am sure I must have missed many other cultural references but I thought that was classy and clever. Even the use of strong language was smart, as the 1920s were not renowned for being prude and proper.
Steamboat Bill Jr. (1928)
Top performances from the leads, with a pleasant surprise of Rory Kinnear singing and Rosalie Craig’s astonishingly beautiful voice. Oh, and what about Le Gateau Chocolat aka George Ikediashi (go check out his website, it’s fabulous, darling!)? To make your own Gateau Chocolat at home you will need:
- a measure of Gregory Porter
- a shot of Beyonce
- a sprinkling of Conchita Wurst
But who am I kidding? Le Gateau Chocolat is inimitable!
Nick Holder and Haydn Gwynne played Mr & Mrs Peachum, both equally alluring and menacing and funny – Holder reminding me of Tim Curry in Rocky Horror Picture Show (Curry played Macheath in 1996), Gwynne looking Almodovaresque in her red dress, in fact I saw her in Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown in 2015. Debbie Kurup as Lucy Brown had all the presence and powerful voice as Shirley Bassey.
To be fair the entire cast is worthy of praise – from the musicians to the chorus.
Now I want to watch the original 1931 black and white film and the 1989 musical starring Roger Daltrey and Raul Julia.