Short Changed: Rory Kinnear in 'THE THREEPENNY OPERA' at the National Theatre, Olivier

When this new season at the National was first announced, I was most excited to see a revisal of The Threepenny Opera coming to the stage, reworked by Curious Incident's Simon Stephens and starring Rory Kinnear. I've never been a massive fan of the show itself, but I knew that if Stephens was at the helm of this Brechtian classic then the show was going to be in good shape.

Funnily enough and to my surprise, I was totally wrong. This new adaptation of T3PO - as I shall call it - is a blend of uninspiring, lazy and poorly explained. Right from the get-go, I felt like I was returning to the second act of a well-done amateur production of Sweeney Todd and the immediate confusion I felt instantly made me feel bored: who were these people and why do I have no idea what they are doing right now, and why am I start to care less and less about the answer to that?

The cast is probably the show's saving grace. While Kinnear's performance as Mack the Knife felt lazy and underacted (there was such little enthusiasm behind what he was saying that I just stopped listening), performances by Rosalie Craig as Polly Peachum and Haydn Gwynne as her mother were fantastic. Both ladies give awesome comical performances with big musical numbers that made me better about sitting through the entire show, but neither of them managed to redeem the show in its entirety for me. I found Nick Holder as Peachum irritating and his character was so poorly explained that I felt confused by him the entire time, and the use of the ensemble of the show left me just as baffled; the programme says all of these people have names and places in the story, but I don't even remember any of them having lines... and what on Earth was this "job" idea that they were being set out to do!?

Rosalie Craig in The Threepenny Opera

The production values of the show are interesting as well. Told almost entirely with scenery that is just wooden frames and cloth hung over the front, it's minimalism that would've worked much better if the story was considerably beefier; a concept that I can imagine would work really well for a heavy show like Sweeney Todd - which this show really reminds me of throughout - but it did this fanciful and poorly developed adaptation of T3PO  no justice at all. Instead, the show felt even more drab and unexciting than it was before. If I'm totally honest, it just felt lazy all around and completely light hearted for a show that cried out to be even darker than it was being made out to be. After all, it is a show about a complete psychopath which is an idea that I felt was extremely overlooked for the sake of making Kinnear's character comical and likeable for the audience.

All-in-all, The Threepenny Opera at the National Theatre is okay at best. While I didn't hate it - and I actually found some components reasonably enjoyable - I still think it is one of the biggest let downs I have ever felt after seeing a show. Considering all of the hype that led up to this show's opening, it's very disappointing to see it be so incredibly uninspiring. Perhaps it was lost in translation from page to stage, but it doesn't look as though Simon Stephens has found himself another Olivier and Tony-winning hit.

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