Review: In which Stan goes to see the Threepenny Opera, National Theatre (it's not a musical or is it?)
'It's not a musical, it's a play with songs.' Fast forward to the interval of the National Theatre's Threepenny Opera and Poly admits 'it's got more songs than I remember'. They did start to grate on this non-musical theatre fan and I'd have happily fast forwarded through handful of them. That said the production design, costumes and satirical tone still made for an enjoyable evening.
I have nothing to compare this to so I can't judge the adaptation by Simon Stephens or its faithfulness to the original (I understand director Rufus Norris has been playing around with very different endings). I also can't judge the way the songs are performed etc. - it's all brand new to me.
The setting is a grungy, crime-riddled East London on the eve of the King's coronation - which King I don't think really matters. The stage is stripped back with oddments of set the styling and costumes are grimy Victorian music hall/circus with a teaspoon of Madame Jojos and Moulin Rouge added. Protagonist Captain Macheath (a lovely, eye-liner wearing Rory Kinnear) wears a sharp suit lose enough to keep a large and menacing looking knife in his inside pocket. But there is no stage blood, wounds are all done with thick red wool in keeping with the music hall theme. It's the language that is often the most vicious.
The problem for Mac is Polly's dad. He isn't best pleased to have him as a son in law and Mr Peacham (Nick Holder) isn't the nicest of people either. His dress style is pin-stripe suit, heels, sharp bob wig and make up and yet he cuts a menacing figure as he organises his gang of beggars. It becomes and cat and mouse game.
This is a production that I'll remember for some great set pieces and for the juxtaposition of innocent theatrical devices with some cutting and rather fruity language. I'll remember it for its slapstick, satire, simple cleverness and dark fun.
When Rory's Mac feigns surprise that the audience has returned after the interval, he was mirroring my own surprise at enjoying this 'not a musical but a play with songs'. Don't get me wrong I'm not going to be rushing into the West End to see Les Miserables anytime soon or any musical come to that but there was enough else going on that was the right sort of entertainment to distract me. I left humming Mac the Knife but it's the only song I knew and remembered afterwards. It's getting four stars from me - too many songs for a five.
It was two hours and 50 minutes including an interval and is on at the National Theatre's Olivier stage until Oct 1.