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The Threepenny Opera

King's Theatre, Edinburgh
Four stars

When a lightbulb bursts during the opening massed rendition of Mack the Knife in this spirited production of Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill's 1928 anti capitalist musical, it follows a similar incident last weekend on the opening night of The Steamie. If this initially feels like lightning striking twice, Susan Worsfold's production for the Festival and King's Theatre initiated Attic Collective is far smarter than that. As it runs with what morphs into Poor Theatre to the max, emergency lights and hand-held spotlights are utilised for all to see. The latter is crucial in a show that leaves nothing hidden in its re-energising of Brecht's disruptive roots.

On an otherwise bare stage, a band plays while members of the show's eighteen-strong ensemble pedal away at exercise bikes, presumably powering the show, but getting nowhere fast. While captions and slides are projected, dashing anti-establishment rake Macheath runs rings around both the underworld, headed up by Max Reid's odious Peachum, and the authorities. Only Macheath's various women get the better of him.

Drawing from Marc Blitzstein's 1954 English adaptation, Worsfold's production sees Kirsty Punton pretty much throw herself into the role of Peachum's daughter Polly, bringing brittle-edged sass into a storming rendition of Pirate Jenny. As Jenny herself, Sally Cairns is equally impressive. Charlie West, meanwhile, captures the full strutting thrust of Macheath.

Leaving aside the fact that most of the original play was seemingly penned by Brecht's then lover Elisabeth Hauptmann, what emerges is a rambunctious piece of cartoon knockabout noir. This is peppered with bar-room show-tunes that sucker punch the audience in the name of entertainment before revealing a deliriously subversive intent.

The Herald, September 18th 2017

ends

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