Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Theatre - First Night Reviews; Metro Life

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Theatre - First Night Reviews; Metro Life

Article excerpt

Byline: NICHOLAS DE JONGH

The Threepenny Opera

The National Theatre's Education Department scores an irresistible hit with this cool updating of Bertolt Brecht's The Threepenny Opera for which Kurt Weill wrote adorable music. Tim Baker's vibrant touring production does something valuable and rare. It convinces you Brecht can be serious fun: the nine-strong company play musical instruments and convey a vivid impression of low-society crooks corruptly on the make or hot for sex. The villainous Macheath is magnificently played by Michael Schaeffer as a psychopathic homme fatale who mood-swings from greasy charm to spitting fury.

Brecht's musical morality was based upon John Gay's 18thcentury Beggar's Opera, which satirised contemporary politicians.

Anthony Meech's book, which lacks Brecht's political pointing, sets the action during this year's jubilee. Jeremy Sams has replaced Brecht's song and ballads with terrific lyrics that reek of sardonic misanthropy.

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Macbeth

Oh the toil and trouble of watching Sean Bean's Macbeth wading through the swampland that await anyone playing the hero of Shakespeare's riskiest tragedy. Where's the tortured conscience, the agonised warrior who wrestles with ambition and a goading wife? It's not that Bean's performance in Edward Hall's inept, torpid, modern-dress production ranks with the bad or the laughable Macbeths. Far from it. Bean's gritty, handsome Macbeth really looks the fighting part. But the Thane Of Cawdor's crucial battle is with his nagging conscience and his attractive wife - Samantha Bond's (with Bean, below) assertive, uppercrust Lady Macbeth has clearly married beneath her.

Bean, who adopts a phlegmatic, northern accent, settles into a groove of glum anxiety.

Edward Hall's lightweight production, which lacks a sense of time or place, lacks any governing concept.

Macbeth wears a modish dressing gown but fights with a sword. The soldiers of Adrian Schiller's boring Malcolm are equipped with submachine guns.

The witches ought be prophetic old hags, instead Hall turns them into sexy young sirens. …

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