The Threepenny Opera

(Die Dreigroschenoper) Her Majesty’s Theatre, Adelaide, 10 March 2024

It might not be opera, more cabaret Singspiel, but it was still pretty good. Brecht’s rosy worldview, his ‘Berlinized’ take on John Gay’s balladic Beggar’s Opera, was presented with great élan and sophistication under the direction of TVC’s bête noire, Barrie Kosky, with a subtly simple staging of moving Jungle-Jims, up and over which the cast nimbly climbed and clambered, and a cabaret-style spangly curtain through which heads, and sometimes feet, would peep.

Brecht’s libretto is extremely witty but it isn’t really a Marxist social satire, rather a nihilistic view of society as a sewer in which all crimes and misdemeanours should go unpunished. (It is a grim irony that the Adelaide Festival should host this Weimar-inspired piece, a city experiencing housing shortages, a per capita recession, burgeoning under-employment, political fragmentation and distrust in institutions. Incidentally, a full house included folks displaying their virtuous keffiyehs).

The excellent ensemble (see credits below) started with a bang and kept up a vigourous noise, although really, Kurt Weill’s music is rarely more than pedestrian. Highlights are “Mac the Knife,”  “The Cannon Song,” “Ballad of Sexual Obsession,” “The Ballad of the Insufficiency of Human Behaviour” and the closing numbers, during which, gorgeously, a neon sign blurts from the darkness above a reprieved Macheath, stating “LOVE ME.”

The Berliner cast have a splendid time, spitting and swearing and vomiting and stabbing and declaiming. In terms of bono vox, we thought Julia Berger, as the prostitute Jenny, the best. Gabriel Schneider was charismatic and kinetic as the sociopath Macheath; Cynthia Micas as his betrothed, Polly Peachum, was fine; and Tilo Nest and Constanze Becker as Mr. and Mrs. Peachum, stylishly attired, were terrific. Kathrin Wehlisch as police chief ‘Tiger’ Brown was a buffoon, a slightly-less-nasty Pozzo.

“don’t laugh when we’re taken to the gallows”

Conductor, Piano, Harmonium Adam Benzwi

Alto Saxophone, Clarinet, Flute, Piccolo James Scannell

Soprano Saxophone, Tenor Saxophone, Baritone Saxophone Doris Decker

Trumpet Nathan Plante

Trombone, Double Bass Otwin Zipp

Drums Sebastian Trimolt

Guitar, Banjo Ralf Templin


  1. Reply

    Smug of Glebe

    March 12, 2024

    Stan Ridgway does a good version of the Cannon Song and Ute Lemper a good version of the 'Whorehouse where we used to live' ballad.

  2. Reply


    March 24, 2024

    I agree with your review. The audience participation veered a little too close to weak stand-up comedy, but apart from that I enjoyed the whole show. Peachum was superb. He was simultaneously urbane, charming, offensive, and amoral.

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