THE THREEPENNY OPERA: Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill
English Translation of the Dialogue: Robert David MacDonald
English Translation of the Lyrics: Jeremy Sams
Runs: Approx 2h 50m, one interval
Birmingham Rep to 12 04 14, then West Yorkshire Playhouse to 10 05 14
Review: Birmingham Rep, 27 March, Alexander Ray Edser
Rumbustious, truthful, flawed.
One of the co-producers of this Birmingham Rep production is Graeae Theatre Company; this gives a great boost to the play’s satirical bite, makes it edgy.
The production as a whole is excellently judged. It feels rough around the edges; directors Peter Rowe and Jenny Sealey pull off this tricky balance in Neil Murray’s well-conceived set. The excellent band (instruments played by the acting company) strikes exactly the right tone; add in the singing and the team frequently mix popular tune with a sense of real anger – just what the doctor ordered. Yet within all this there is a flaw, not a fatal one, but one that leaves the body-theatric weakened. Too often we can’t hear the lyrics – sometimes it’s bad articulation from some actors who should know better, at other times it’s because the right balance is not struck between singers and music. Occasionally the strong ensemble is entirely drowned out. Shame, oh shame; the lyrics are witty and important – we are missing out.
This ramshackle ensemble are wonderful together, and jokes about beggars and new false stumps has you cringing . . . and, yes, thinking. (Alienation with a sense of humour?) Gary Robson is a fine Peachum, heading up the crew. He has a charmingly elegant wife in Victoria Oruwari’s performance – and she sings well. CiCi Howells gives a lively Polly; a strong singing voice but I couldn’t understand a word. Milton Lopes’s Macheath is handsome and dashing, but I’d never be worried about meeting him in a dark alley.
John Kelly is an engaging narrator, and one of the undoubted stars of the show is the Sign Language Interpreter, Jude Mahon – a performance in her own right.
Maisie: Sonia Allori
Dolly: Sophie Byrne
Jenny: Amelia Cavallo
Ned: Stephen Collins
Nellie: Satcy Ghent
Jake: Ben Goffe
Reverend Kimball: Joey Hickman
Betty: Barbara Hockaday
Smith: JH Holmes
Polly: CiCi Howells
Tiger Brown: Will Kenning
Narrator: John Kelly
Lucy: Natasha Lewis
Macheath: Milton Lopes
Mrs Peachum: Victoria Oruwari
JJ Peachum: Garry Robson
Filch: Max Runham
Bob: Joe Vetch
Sign Language Interpreter: Jude Mahon
Audio Describer: Wayne Pickles Norman
Directors: Peter Rowe and Jenny Sealey
Designer: Neil Murray
Musical Director: Robert Huyman
Movement Director: Mark Smith
Lighting Designer: Malcolm Rippeth
Sound Designer: Drew Baumohl
Projections Designer: Mark Haig
Performance Musical Director: Joey Hickman
Casting Director: Debbie O’Brien