Wednesday, 7 September 2011

The Threepenny Opera

Staged by the Sydney Theatre Company.

One of the most famous theatrical works of the 20th century, this was the first time I have seen The Threepenny Opera and all I knew of it previously was it's most famous song, Mack the Knife, and that the play is about the criminal classes.

This production moves the setting to Sydney around the time of an unnamed King's coronation; perhaps Edward VIII and 1936 although Edward abdicated the throne to marry Wallis Simpson and was never crowned.

The principal character is Macheath (Eddy Perfect), a ruthless murderer, rapist and philanderer who marries the daughter of a wealthy man. The displeased  father in law sets out to remove Macheath from the scene enlisting drug addicted prostitute Jenny (Paul Capsis) to trap him and bring him to a corrupt policeman. It's that sort of story.

All this is played out with surprisingly tuneful songs, bawdy lyrics and a cheerful, unabashed coarseness. The Sydney references work beautifully; after all our nickname is 'Sin City'. Several famous Australians are given a vicious serve during proceedings including the city's Catholic Cardinal. This might account for some of the vacated seats after interval assuming the general coarseness wasn't sufficient.

Capsis is noted for his gender bending roles and is excellent in this play. He sings strongly, swaggers around the stage and doubles as a lascivious priest. Perfect lives up to his name, full of menace and scheming to the end.

Having never seen the play before I can't comment on how well this production compares with a traditional staging. I ran into some bridge playing friends in the foyer at interval who appeared a bit shell-shocked but I found this presentation compelling.

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