The year is 1928, the city is Berlin; and at one of the great turning-points of European history, a group of artists gather to put on a show.
Mack The Knife | Rating: **** | Oran Mor, Glasgow
No-one is sure about it, except perhaps the writer, Marxist poet and playwright Bertolt Brecht. The title keeps changing. The producer fears preachy radicalism, cast members are walking out in droves, and the composer Kurt Weill and his wife, the singer Lotte Lenya, hardly know whether they’re coming or going, as Brecht demands last-minute additions, including an opening song called Mack The Knife.
Yet this was the shambolic process that gave us one of Brecht’s greatest works, The Threepenny Opera, and the idea of dramatising this rehearsal period as a Play, Pie And Pint lunchtime mini-musical is one of the best that writer-director Morag Fullarton has ever had, in a career full of inspiration.
It might be possible to list a few ways in which the show falls short of perfection – the Broadway-style tones that slightly blunt the hard edge of classic songs like Pirate Jenny, an awkward midstream switch from light-hearted spoof to tragedy.
Yet Harry Ward and Angela Darcy turn in fine performances as Weill and Lenya; and Jimmy Chisholm is outstanding as Kurt Gerron, the great singer, actor and director who first performed Mack The Knife – and who was forced to sing his greatest hit as he walked towards the gas chambers at Auschwitz.
“The shark has teeth like knives, dear, and he shows them pearly white”, and there has rarely been a better week to remember that, through this fine – and ultimately stunning – show.
• Final performance Saturday