Fans of the theatre might have heard about The Threepenny Opera by Elisabeth Hauptmann and Bertolt Brecht. The ‘musical’ was adapted from John Gay's ballad opera, The Beggar's Opera. Today it’s more famously known as The Threepenny Opera and Brecht is given the sole credit of playwright, even though it was Hauptmann who produced most of the text. But what matters most to you is that the musical is now staging in Mumbai. Aadyam (you know of them if you watch plays) opened The Threepenny Opera along with Motley at St. Andrews Auditorium last week. The play is directed by Imaad Shah (son of veteran theatre artists Ratna Pathak and Naseeruddin Shah) and comprises a huge cast of many famous theatre artists.
WHAT'S THE THREEPENNY OPERA ABOUT:
The Threepenny Opera is essentially a socialist view of the capitalist society. It explores the story of Mr. and Mrs. Peachum (played by Bugs Bhargava and Meher Mistry) – a hardened couple running a fake beggar racket in the underbelly of London. Their only daughter, Polly (Saba Azad), has fallen for Macheath (Arunoday Singh) who is an irresistible miscreant and incorrigible womanizer. Polly and Mac elope, which leads to the Peachums conspiring to have Mac hanged. But the Police Chief of London, Tiger Brown (Joy Fernandes) is a friend of Mac’s, and yet Peachum is not one to back down when things don’t go his way. Other notable characters in the play include Jenny (Delna Mody) – a prostitute once romantically involved with Macheath, and Lucy (Stephanie D’Souza) – Brown’s daughter and Mac’s wife, who helps her husband escape the jail cell.
While you’d question a script as old as time, The Threepenny Opera is as relevant as it is entertaining. Motley has not made any attempts to adapt it and we’re very thankful for that. Bugs Bhargava and Meher Mistry were perhaps the best actors from the lot and Meher even managed to impress with her flawless singing. Vivaan Shah was a surprise package, playing the roles of both Charlie Filch and Walter effortlessly. It was a great progress from his previous play, Anand Express (another Aadyam production), where the boy had to play himself. All the actors in Mac’s gang were also well-coordinated, especially during the Cannon Song.
There was no cost held back when it came to production. With a basic English theatre set-up, the set was minimalistic, yet the costumes were grand, even for the beggars. Visually, the play was beautiful to watch, even with a few prop glitches that could easily be forgiven.
WHAT COULD HAVE BEEN BETTER:
Meanwhile, aurally, there were more than a few flaws. A number of actors cracked their voices while singing – something you might just miss if you are musically challenged. The choreography faltered in a place or two and The Ballad of Immoral Earnings could have been better had the actors not been very concerned with the steps. The Peachums impressed more than Mac and Polly, who were supposed to be the stars of the narrative. While Arunoday Singh did not have the charisma of Mac the Knife, Saba Azad’s voice was a little too much to bear at places.
WHY YOU SHOULD WATCH:
Aadyam has given us all a wonderful opportunity to watch the English opera in our own city and no theatre lover should miss this. Also, if you love plays centered on the themes of poverty, morality, and corruption, pay a little more than is expected of you and watch this play when it stages at the NCPA next in December. It is a treat you must catch on stage!