Worth Every Penny

Francesca Tyer reviews Savoy Opera Society's 'The Threepenny Opera'

Last night saw the opening performance of the Savoy Opera Society’s ‘The Threepenny Opera.’ The show took on a unique and thought-provoking perspective, brilliantly interpreted and directed by Rafael Aptroot.

Aptroot set the show in a Post-Brexit world, moving away from Bertholt Brecht’s original Victorian setting. This modernised form was used to deliberately convey how our values have returned to those exercised by the Victorians. The story follows the anti-heroic actions of the notorious gang-leader Macheath (Mack the Knife) and his relationship with naive and determined Polly Peachum, played by Abi Smith. The wrath of her father, Mr Peachum, leads to the imprisonment of Mack. Peachum’s attempts to have him hanged are stalled by chief of police Tiger Brown, played by Barney Nunn and the play ends with an unexpected twist. It is a story of beggars, whores, lies, and deceit, mingled with the comedy and satire of the Post-Brexit setting.

The set was simple yet used the space imaginatively. Two sheets were hung up, acting as curtains throughout the show.

They were used on several occasions as a surface on which to project some elusive shadow theatre. Light and dark were also played with at the end, when the whole cast turned their phone torches on Mack. This highlighted him in his despair, creating a tense and nervous atmosphere. The actors were dressed in clothes made from bin liners and their faces were painted white with colour on their lips and under their eyes. The costumes weren’t something I expected within an opera, but were extremely effective in highlighting the characters’ poverty.

I was impressed by the talent of the performers who were singing, acting, and even dancing simultaneously. Eli Maties’ performance of Jenny Diver combined all three of these elements which she handled with finesse. Her dance with Mack was a particularly striking and passionate moment. In her role as Polly Peachum, Abi Smith also delivered a well rounded performance. She successfully captured Polly’s naïve yet stubborn character and I was captivated by her vocally stunning solo performances. Miriam Endersby also sang beautifully in her role as the feisty Lucy Brown. Also noteworthy were the engaging interactions between Mr and Mrs Peachum, played by Will Davidson and Chloe Osmond. Davidson conveyed the dominating and hostile character of Mr Peachum with spirit, in an admirable performance.

The whole cast came together to create a memorable show. It was great to see all the actors playing a part, some even taking on two roles, and they all made the characters their own. When they came together as a chorus, they created some particularly mesmerising melodies. Sitting in the second row, the power of their voices and the beautifully tuned harmonies sent a shiver down my spine.

One of the highlights of the evening was the “Jealousy Duet” sung by Polly and Lucy. Both actresses showcased some beautiful vocal gymnastics and created a crisp and memorable performance. Their positioning on the side of the imprisoned Mack highlighted the rivalry between them, enhanced further by their equally matched stubbornness. Another notable section was the wedding scene, where the gang members’ lively interactions created a comically entertaining performance.

A particularly humorous character in the show is Filch, played by Ned Sanders. This stuttering and nervous character won many laughs from the audience for his comically naïve remarks. His change of costume in Peachum’s shop came as a surprise, yet was enjoyed by the audience. The scenes jumped between these amusing moments and more solemn sections.

Joshua Buttery-Clements conveyed Mack’s fear before his hanging through a truly tragic and powerful performance of the “Death Message.” This shift between comedy and misfortune created a strange juxtaposition of emotions. However, I thoroughly enjoyed this variety and it kept me engaged throughout the show.

Huge congratulations to the cast for putting on a wonderfully thought provoking yet humorous show. They performed with high energy and it was great to see the interactions between the cast members in their respective roles. Commendation must also be given to crew; whose hard work built the foundations of the show. The band’s performance was also essential in shaping the production.

‘The Threepenny Opera’ is on until 19th November in Jane Holloway Hall. I highly recommend you buy a ticket to this wonderful show. Buy your tickets from the SU website or pay by cash on the door – I can assure you that the performance is worth every penny!