Mr and Mrs Peachum are the masters of human nature: they know how to present their beggars to elicit sympathy from the population. Likewise they understand the lewd impulses which compel Mack, and they know how to exploit them. They also know how to turn his friends against him, not through any guile or charm, but by appealing to their base nature.
This is an ambitious play for a student group, nevertheless SUDS put in a good showing. Director Clemence Williams has obviously done her homework when it comes to Epic Theatre and she has her Verfremdungseffekt down. The actors address the audience, scene cards are employed, actors get doubled to humorous effectand the striping of the costumes at the end also works into this theme. None of this was overdone though and Williams seems to have hit a good balance with her deployment of the Brechtian techniques.
The set is sparse but even so at times it became somewhat cumbersome when the cast needed to make scene changes. Having said that there are some rather nice ideas in there too, notably the prison cell which descends on the fly, an unexpected and enjoyable surprise. If this production has a significant drawback regrettably it is the band. One wonders if a lone piano might have been a better choice.
The band tended to overpower the singers making it difficult to follow the lyrics, even more unforgivable when the brass section was flat. Thankfully the actors manage to compensate. Morrow also held his own as a singer, and was able to bring the comedic moments out into the open. Finn Davis as Mr Peachum was a particular stand out. Davis brought a beautiful lyricism to Mr Peachum, and he was completely natural as the cruel businessman.
The play is based And Chorus central character Mac the Knife along with different characters of diverse status in society. The lyrics of the song reveal things about the character of Mac the Knife, swaying our judgement of this character before we are even introduced. Instantaneously the audience are thrown into the world of the play just by listening to the song and are left to question what is right and wrong almost immediately.
Brecht wastes no time in introducing the alienation effect, in the opening he sends the audience into an unfamiliar setting, unfamiliar to a modern audience but unrecognisable to the intended German audience of The setting he creates allows the audience to make comparisons of the events against modern day, or the audiences own time period.
Act one begins properly when the song finishes and the scene is switched to Mr. He delivers a monologue to the audience which describes how difficult his business is; he explains that humans no longer have any sympathy and his business is suffering because of this.
The theme of mankind and morality is arisen somewhat biblically; this is typical of Brecht as it again gives the audience the opportunity to think about these ideas. Scene two is set at a stable, it is here that we are properly introduced to Macheath and Polly; we discover that the two characters are celebrating their marriage. The character of Poly can be determined as naive as she is willing to accept the crimes of Macheath due to her love for him, even though he is unfaithful to her.
The gang sing songs about a couple who wed but do not know each other; this furthers the plot without actually showing the event of this. Tiger Brown, to the surprise of his gang, is greeted warmly by Macheath, he rants enthusiastically about his relationship with the Sheriff, stating that Tiger Brown often lets his crimes slide on account of this relationship; it is here that the audience realise the corrupt nature of Soho and begin to question integrity.
Polly tells her parents of this through song and their anger is apparent after she tells them this news however, unusually, they are not angered at the marriage but instead that Macheath daughter can no longer continue working as a prostitute, slicing their income. Mr Peachum hatches a plan to frame Macheath thus getting him caught and sentenced to death, however Polly comments that his plan will not prevail, creating a strange relief in the audience as they find themselves wanting Mac to escape.
The irony in this is apparent as the audience is aware of his criminal nature, yet they want him to be reprieved. Act two commences with Polly entering the stable where Macheath is waiting; she tells him that her father has been to see Tiger Brown and that Mac needs to leave to avoid being caught.
Everyone else exits and Mack and Polly celebrate their love " Liebeslied ". Then Polly returns home and defiantly announces her marriage " Barbarasong ". She stands fast against Mr, Brown. Peachum's anger, but she does let slip Mack's ties to Brown. This revelation gives Mr. Peachum an idea about how to snare Mack, and the trio meditates on the world's corruption " Erstes Dreigroschenfinale ". Polly tells Mack that her father will have him arrested.
He makes Brown to leave London, explaining his bandit "business" to Polly so she can manage it in his absence, and he departs " Melodram " and " Pollys Lied ".
Brown decisively takes over the gang as Mrs. Brown arrives and apologetically arrests Mack, who goes to jail. He bribes the guard to remove his handcuffs " Ballade vom angenehmen Leben " ; then another girlfriend, Lucy--Brown's daughter--and Polly show up at the same time, leading to a nasty argument " Eifersuchtsduett ".
After Polly leaves, Lucy engineers Mack's escape. When Mr. Peachum finds out, he threatens to unleash the beggars during the coronation parade and forces Brown to go after Mack. The action stops for another meditation on the unpleasant human condition " Zweites Dreigroschenfinale ".
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