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The Threepenny Opera

Theatre Paradisum at the Playhouse Theatre, Norwich

Review published in the Eastern Daily Press, 22 January 2009

The Threepenny Opera

Fans of Brecht’s theatrical ideas, novices in the art of ‘making strange’ (verfremdungseffekt) and those who enjoy a classic parody with music should catch The Threepenny Opera.

The bare walls of the stripped Playhouse stage are ideal for great racks of costumes to serve as scenery. Actors, ‘presenters’, change in view and pull off that difficult trick of separating emotion from their demonstrations of their roles.

Theatre Paradisum are a mainly local group. From the opening of the much-abused Mac the Knife, the audience is in safe hands.

Weill’s music is interpreted with flair, songs punctuate narrative and the whole achieves Brecht’s aim of provoking thought, yet is highly entertaining.

It’s a commentary of corruption endemic to law and the criminal world where the bandit Macheath (Ed Birch) and Tiger Brown, chief of police (Pat Cahill) are best friends.

Some lines resonate today – ‘I’m going into banking, it’s safer, more profitable’.

Jokes work and director Peter Beck builds a seedy world of beggars and prostitutes through strong performances from all, especially Evan Ryder as Peachum, Sally Campion-Jones as his wife and Alma Fournier-Carballo and Louise Humphrey as the women fighting over the anti-hero.

The rather disappointing finale reprieve on the gallows is down to Brecht, but this show could be trimmed a little and still be first class.

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