London town and it’s the eve of Queen Victoria’s coronation. People are piling into the city and it’s a paradise for pick pockets, thieves and villains and who better to lead the pack than Macheath, known as Mack the Knife, a mean dangerous low life who’d slit your throat as soon as look at you.
While they wait their chance of riches, someone has the bright idea of writing an opera to entertain the down and outs, a cheap production to give a laugh and fill in the hours before business begins. They call it The Threepenny Opera and it opened last night at the Lyric Theatre in Belfast.
A rag bag of characters, colourful and rather well dressed to be penniless beggars, their story twists and turns around Macheath (Mark Dugdale), a vicious sinister thug who takes out his over active libido on the women he meets, nice girls like Polly Peachum (Jayne Wisener) and Lucy Brown (Brigid Shine) and his ongoing relationship with drug addled madam Jenny Diver (the excellent Kerri Quinn). In this Brecht-Weill look at the underbelly of life there is an evilness, everyone out for themselves, a dark play with music although not dark enough for me, the undercurrents weren’t there and Macheath wasn’t sufficiently creepy or menacing although a convincing ladies man.
From a musical perspective the marriage of the Lyric with Northern Ireland Opera and a fulsome band works well, the set is extraordinary, steep raked stairs from one side of the stage to the other and from top to bottom, a table flown in and a chandelier dropped down; with clever design two playing areas become available with trap doors for exits and entrances but my heart was in my mouth as the cast chased up and down the steps, always looking down to make sure of their footing. They’ll get used to it but in a complex production just one more challenge.
Internationally acclaimed baritone Steven Page plays Jonathan Peachum and his wife is the tall sophisticated Matthew Cavan (also known locally as drag artists Miss Cherrie Ontop) with Richard Croxford a really sleazily Jackie Tiger Brown. Good supporting rolls from this cast of thirteen plus two horses!
The Threepenny Opera
Lyric Theatre Belfast
Until 10th February 2018 www.lyrictheatre.co.uk