The Threepenny Opera at Nottingham Playhouse

Gritty, hard-hitting and vibrant, Brecht’s The Threepenny Opera is given a vigorous contemporary reboot at Nottingham Playhouse.


With a set and costume design theme which seems to bizarrely combine Gatsby-esque decadence, Victorian poverty and a hint of 80s Punk, The Threepenny Opera is a moralistic tale of love, betrayal, corruption and desperation.

As the tattered red curtain is lifted in the protest banner bedecked auditorium, a raucous rendition of ‘Mack the Knife’ introduces the play’s antihero Macheath (played by Milton Lopes), a notorious London criminal and serial adulterer.

Red curtain

That’s a scruffy curtain

A modern day Jack-the-Ripper, the narrative follows the disarmingly suave Macheath as he contends with the unforeseen consequences of his marriage to Polly Peachum ( CiCi Howells), daughter of rival criminal overlord JJ Peachum (Garry Robson).

A tale of bribery, crime and poverty, this play is made stunningly accessible to all.

A play accessible to all

A play accessible to all

With a cast of actors who together represent a vast spectrum of disabilities, The Threepenny Opera caters to all audience members by using projected subtitles, BSL translations and audio descriptions.

In spite of many memorable moments – a two-piece panto horse and a dancing-policeman jazz number being but two – The Threepenny Opera can’t shake the general air of confusion it generates.

Is that the message?

Is that the message?

Showcasing a strong moral message – and many controversial contemporary references to Jimmy Savile and immoral vicars – it’s difficult to be sure how to respond, the lack of thematic guidance obscuring any sort of dominant message.

Though hard-hitting with a strongly emphasised message, the often-confusing kaleidoscope of morality and eccentric comedy is ultimately unsatisfactory.

The message is a bit confusing

The message is a bit confusing

While The Threepenny Opera strives hard to teach an assumedly important lesson, it’s uncertain exactly what that lesson is.