Photos Reviews

The Threepenny Opera

November 2011

Music by KURT WEIL

Book and lyrics by BERTOLT BRECHT
English adaptation by MARC BLITZSTEIN

This amateur production is presented by
arrangement with JOSEF WEINBERGER LTD on
behalf of R & H Theatricals of New York

If you want to understand the modern theatre, the modern musical and modern opera,you could do a lot worse than having a look at Brecht's adaptation of the Beggar's Opera with music by Kurt Weill - the techniques it invented remain embedded deeply in all theatre which isn't entirely realistic. It might have been first performed in 1928, but it remains strikingly fresh, its relevance renewed every generation by the selfish and immoral behaviour of those in power. Best known as the source of the song Mack the Knife, the show also contains other great songs. Estuary Players have a long tradition of performing Brecht's work, but this is the most ambitious, so don't miss a rare opportunity to see a seminal piece of theatre.

Projections used during the show were kindly created by Phil Keen. They are included with the photos below. Phil has also shared his deisgn thoughts below.


Street Singer - Bill Pattinson

Mr Peachum - Alan Caig

Mrs Peachum - Maggie Bourgein

Filch - Tilly Webster

Polly - Josie Kemp

Macheath - Cameron Lemmer

Low Dive Jenny - Angela Wallwork

Rev Kimball - Gordon Halliday

Tiger Brown - Anthony Morris

Lucy Brown - Kate Wannell

Smith - Rob Hole

2nd Constable - Chris Williams

Ready Money Matt - Wallis Parfitt

Crook Finger Jake - Keith Palmer

Bob the Saw - Maggie Butt

Walt Dreary - David Batty

Dolly - Daisy Musters

Molly - Avril Pattinson

Betty - Victoria Jones

Coaxer - Rose Gander

Beggars: - Cass Thorne, Lynn Trout, Bob Dury, Marie Taylor, Gordon Halliday

Production Team:

Director - Ian Potts

Musical Director - Ben Beeson

Stage Manager/Prompt - Janine Warre

Production Manager - Maggie Butt

Wardrobe - Isla Morgan, Janine Warre, Angela Wallwork

Props - Jean Halliday

Lighting - Peter Tapp, John Bradley

Projection design - Phil Keen

Animation and collage - Rhod Cooper

Publicity Design - Phil Keen

Seating - Eliot Wright

Publicity - Avril Pattinson and team

Programme - Alan Caig

Photographs - John Sanders, Sally Ewin,Victoria Jones

Front of House - Maggie Butt, Cally Pettit, Sharon Wannell


Photos by - John Sanders LRPS


From Estuary Magazine December issue:

..the latest, ambitious production by the Estuary Players

Look Out! Macheath’s Back in Topsham Town

‘What is the robbery of a bank compared to the founding of a bank?’ ‘Money rules the world.’ These two lines from the Threepenny Opera, composed in 1928, dispelled any doubts that the first-night audience might have about the topicality of the latest, ambitious production by the Estuary Players, which is directed with panache by Ian Potts.

As Bill Pattinson’s Street Singer intoned the famous ballad of Mack the Knife he moved onstage into the circle of actors representing the low life created by John Gay in his Beggars’ Opera, now relocated to the time of Queen Victoria’s coronation. The range of colourful but by no means shabby costumes worn by the almost genteel criminals, beggars and ladies of easy virtue reflect Brecht’s view that corruption is inherent in supposedly respectable bourgeois society and its capitalist system. Alan Caig and Maggie Bourgein’s Peachums run their begging business with ruthless efficiency, and Macheath prised one of the first night’s surprisingly few laughs from the audience when he declared his intention to give up crime and go in for banking, as a safer and more profitable occupation.

The appearance of Macheath as an almost bashful, lovelorn youth seemed at odds with the list of his crimes that include murder and rape, but this contrast can be defended as a Brechtian ‘defamiliarising’ of the figure. After a hesitant start, Cameron Lemmer grew into the role and came emphatically into his own in the final, powerful prison scenes. Similarly unorthodox is Tilly Webster as a fetchingly female Filch, doubling also as the mounted messenger from the Queen in the finale.

The Peachums performed their songs with great verve, and the two main rivals for Mac’s affection, Polly Peachum (Josie Kemp) and Lucy Brown (Kate Wannell) were also in very good voice, though their performing style veered towards conventional musical as opposed to a more severe Lotte Lenya manner. The self-assertion in Lucy’s rejection of respectable suitors was weakened by the translation of her ‘Nein!’, which ends each verse of her song in Brecht’s original, as ‘I’m sorry’ in this Marc Blitzstein adaptation. Polly’s Pirate-Jenny impersonation was imaginatively staged, but as she was swung through the air the vocal emphasis on her vengeful triumph over her oppressors was likewise softened. In the role of Macheath’s other love, Jenny, Angela Wallwork articulated the disillusion of the Solomon song with nuanced emotional power.

The lively supporting cast, too numerous to name individually here, portrayed an array of social types: not only beggars, whores and gangsters, but clergy, jailers and police - gangster Mac’s friendship with London’s police chief (add your own comment), his old army pal Tiger Brown, played by Anthony Morris, is celebrated in the aggressive comrades-in-arms duet.

In his notes on this piece Brecht makes life difficult for actors and audience by his usual requirement that empathy should be avoided so as not to allow emotional involvement in the action to get in the way of his political message. But as usual his plot, here in particular the love-intrigue, militates against this, and so he reinforces the message with songs, captions and other devices, including the final plot-twist. In this production advantage is taken also of the opportunity offered by the scene where the beggars are gathered to demonstrate before Victoria’s coronation outside Westminster Abbey.

Throughout the performance the vivid back-projection of collages and contemporary photographs illustrating poverty, corruption and the gap between haves and have-nots, as well as of backdrops to the scenes, all brilliantly designed by Phil Keen and Rhod Cooper (one example is on the cover of the programme, reproduced on the company’s website) add immeasurably to both the visual impact of the action and the message it embodies. Underpinning the action is of course the crowning glory of the piece, Kurt Weill’s score, splendidly interpreted and performed at the keyboard by Musical Director Ben Beeson.

- Reviewed by: Alan Robertshaw

From Phil's Design process:

...references to Mack the Knife and Shark's Teeth...

I decided to restrict the colours to just red and black on all the images, to match the poster and link them all together. Ideas for the pictures came from older production posters, communist and impressionist artwork, and woodcuts.

The style is as in woodcut or linocuts, with sharp jagged edges to match the references to "mac the knife" and "sharks' teeth" etc, and the stark poverty of the settings.

I produced the pictures by the ancient process of a broad permanent felt-tip marker!, over pencil designs, A4 size, and scanned in for projection.

- Reviewed by: Phil Keen


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