Theatre review: Threepenny Opera at the King's Theatre, Edinburgh

So in the middle of the opening chorus, one of the big lights over the stage shatters spectacularly, apparently blowing the whole lighting-rig; and for the next two-and-a-half hours, we find ourselves plunged into a world of improvised lighting provided by storm-lanterns and stray spotlights, while cast members puff along on makeshift generator bicycles.

The Attic Ensemble's Threepenny Opera

Threepenny Opera ****

King’s Theatre, Edinburgh

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It’s an original way to take the audience back to the poor theatre world of Bertolt Brecht’s early work in 1920s Berlin; but it works brilliantly, generating a wave of raw energy and complicity, between stage and audience, rarely seen in a comfortable theatre like the King’s.

The Threepenny Opera is the last of three shows produced this year by Attic Theatre, the King’s company for young professionals, and director Susan Worsfold’s formidably talented young ensemble of 18 actors seize this 1928 Brecht-Weill classic by the throat, never flinching from the fierce, ironic energy that drives the story – set in 19th century London – of the compulsively womanising arch-criminal Macheath, and the layers of self-serving criminality that surround him.

Charlie West is a charismatic Macheath, Kirsty Punton’s performance as his latest “wife” Polly Peachum is a satirical masterpiece of feminist fury veiled in china-doll looks. And with some of the company forming a scratch onstage band under Simon Goldring’s superb musical direction, the whole show rattles to a truly Brechtian conclusion as the cast rasp out a final chorus of What Keeps A Man Alive and Mack The Knife - a fittingly fierce finale to their year in the King’s attic studio, working on the big themes of sex, war and money, in apocalyptic times.