Theatre: The Threepenny Opera


The Threepenny Opera is brash, lewd and earthy

and has a distinctly left-wing political

agenda. Thankfully, this new production at the

Gate honours Bertolt Brecht’s intentions (it

is worth remembering that Kurt Weill, Brecht’s

musical collaborator, did not quite share his

communist sympathies).

The work has been updated for a contemporary

Irish audience, but remains true to Brecht’s

vision of a 19th century London where the

amorality of the rich is really no different

to that of the lower classes — when Mack the

Knife dreams of leaving a life of crime, he

believes his experience as a thief best

qualifies him for a career as a banker.

It is hard to tell who is the bigger villain

of the piece, Mack or Mr Peachum. Mack is

leader of a gang of cut-throats and burglars,

while Mr Peachum manipulates a company of

beggars. When Mack seduces his daughter Polly,

Mr Peachum swears revenge, betraying the

younger criminal to the law in the hope that

he will hang. But Mack is no better; he

secretly plans to betray his gang to the

police as well.

The Threepenny Opera revels in its underworld

setting; gangsters rub shoulders with

prostitutes and crooked policemen. In this

production, there is no real distinction

between the good guys and the bad — the

characters, whether dressed in tuxedoes or

rags, all wear black.

The nihilism at the heart of Brecht’s libretto

finds eloquent expression in the big musical

numbers, and is nowhere more pronounced than

on ‘What Keeps Mankind Alive?’, which asserts

that our survival depends on brute force and

utter ruthlessness. It is no coincidence that,

mere years after The Threepenny Opera was

first produced in Berlin in 1928, Brecht and

Weill fled Germany, fearing Nazi prosecution.

The ending — in which Mack is saved from

hanging by a last-minute pardon from the king

— is ridiculous, of course, but is true to the

spirit of John Gay’s The Beggars’ Opera, the

great populist work of the 18th century that

inspired Brecht and Weill in the first place.

Even at three hours, The Threepenny Opera

holds the attention. Under Wayne Jordan’s

direction, there is never a dull moment. Mark

O’Regan and David Ganly excel as Mr Peachum

and Mack the Knife, while Jackie Marks hits

just the right note as the long-suffering Mrs

Peachum and Charlotte McCurry plays Polly with

the appropriate mixture of naivety and


Star Rating: 4/5

Five Not To Miss


Gaiety Theatre, Dublin

Tonight: The Gare St Lazare Players present Samuel Beckett’s classic play, starring Conor Lovett and directed by Judy Hegarty Lovett.

2 Live Music: BRUNO MARS

The O2, Dublin

Tonight: Through his solo work and many collaborations, the artist formerly known as Peter Gene Hernandez is well on his way to selling his first 60 million singles.


Smock Alley Theatre, Dublin

Friday: Eugene O’Neill’s 1924 play explores such themes as familial jealousy, infidelity and infanticide. This new production is presented by The Corn Exchange for Dublin Theatre Festival.

4 Theatre: THE CRITIC

The Culture Box, Dublin

FRIDAY: Rough Magic present a contemporary take on Richard Brinsley Sheridan’s 1779 burlesque of the joys and follies of theatre-making.

5 Live Music: JAY Z

The O2, Dublin

Sunday: The multi-Grammy Award winner and hip hop legend is touring his 12th studio album, Magna Carta Holy Grail.

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