Friday, 27 May 2016

Review: The Threepenny Opera at the National Theatre

The Threepenny Opera
National Theatre (Olivier)
Reviewed on Thursday 26th May 2016

The latest offering at the National is a dark reimagining of Brecht and Kurt Weill’s The Threepenny Opera. This new adaptation by Simon Stephens, and directed by Rufus Norris is saucy, sadistic and a little bit scary.

Set in the hollow world of London’s backstreets, the terrifyingly gender-bending Mr Peachum (Nick Holder) is in charge, but crooked crook Macheath (Rory Kinnear) has other plans. After marrying Peachum’s daughter, Polly (Rosalie Craig), in a shotgun wedding, he sets out to rule the roost and change his fortunes, but any means necessary.

It’s a whole heap of fun, and the voyeuristic nod to a Cabaret-style Weimer Germany gives things an enticing twist. Norris has peeled back quite a lot of the original story, and instead this desolate version, with paper scenery and a foreboding clown-band is neater and grittier.

There’s some excellent work to Kinnear’s dangerous Macheath, but there’s a distinct lack of leading man charm. It doesn’t really feel like a part that belongs to the worthwhile credentials of such an accomplished actor. What Kinnear does have in spades is a terrifying, verging on psychotic and emotionless stage presence, which makes it difficult to tear your eyes off him.

Rosalie Craig is in fine voice, and her Act Two duet with rival Lucy Brown, played by a sassy Debbie Kurup is one of the best numbers. Haydn Gwynne and Nick Holder as Mr and Mrs Peachum threaten to steal the scene whenever they enter, whilst the casting of wheel-chair using actor Jamie Beddard is spot on, with Bedford’s quick humour garnering the biggest laughs of the evening.

Weil’s score sounds impressively pastiche, and is played beautifully by David Shrubsole’s onstage band, adding another level to this increasingly mad, yet entertaining yarn.

The Threepenny Opera is well worth a watch, and its second half is a true delight from beginning to end. Is there anything Simon Stephens can’t adapt?

Reviewed by Oliver Dowdeswell

The Threepenny Opera runs at the National Theatre (Olivier) until 1st October 2016.
Please visit for further information and tickets.

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