Mr. and Mrs. Peachum try to break up the marriage of their daughter Polly to the notorious thief, murderer and rapist Mac The Knife.
I had only heard about The Threepenny Opera in passing until The Gate Theatre announced it was putting on a production. I did not even know that the song “Mac The Knife” originally came from this play but I did have an idea that is was the one of the first productions that merged music and drama in one setting making it one of the early precursors to the modern Musical.
So small was my knowledge that I did not even realise that (until the curtain opened) Mac the Knife was the main character. We were given a splendid and menacing rendition of the original lyric of Mac the Knife which sets the scene and leaves us in no doubt that this incredibly dangerous man is back in town.
There is always a period of adjustment when experiencing a play. The actors do their part but the audience must also do their part to lend themselves to the performance. I was disappointed that it took a longer time than usual for the players, play and audience to settle. It seemed to only gel after the first act. I want to put this down to it being the last preview before opening night because the rest of the play was great fun.
Even though the play is set in London they chose to only have 3 or 4 characters speak in that accent while the others all spoke with Dublin accents. There was enough swearing to bother some of the more conservative theatre goers.
But in saying that once it gelled and the players clicked it was very entertaining, funny, sexy and well directed. The songs were emotive and the dance routines amusing and very well-choreographed, especially on the space restricted stage of The Gate Theatre, which also held the small orchestra for the entire performance. There is not one morally stable character in the play yet between them all you will find yourself empathising as the emotional stakes rise throughout. These vagabonds mirror high society by clinging on to what ever morals they can grasp to inflate their own egos.
Some of the problems with the early part of the show manifested themselves in comic lines being lost on the audience. I must keep reminding myself that it was a preview because the play itself should be watched by anyone with an interest in the history of theatre and musicals in particular. If you have seen either Cabaret or West Side Story there is no doubt that they were directly influenced by this seemingly flippant but deceptively deep, humanist and humourous adaptation of the classic by Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill.
I will try to catch another performance later on in the run