Mack the Knife
Oran Mor, Glasgow
Sep 16 – 21, 2019
Oran Mor’s year of celebration continued with a revival of Morag Fullarton’s take on the Mack the Knife story about the period leading up to the production of what eventually became The Threepenny Opera. There was great upheaval at this time in between-the-wars in Berlin just before the rise of the Nazis, mirrored in the action onstage which was carefully choreographed to contain all the vivid, comedic activity. The entourage on stage included 4 actors, with some having double roles; Keith Fleming, playing Lotte Lenya’s, husband, doubling up as the delectable MacHeath and also playing guitar. The dialogue kept up a fast and furious pace, interspersed with frequent songs that grew in passion and significant the further we were hurled into the plot. Bertholt Brecht (George Drennan) came on – a larger than life character sliding the four of them together in theatrical style. All of which lead to Lotte auditioning for a show in Berlin. She was almost faced with the three men conspiring about her, all in the name of the show. The story stuck very well to the original style of the 30’s song by Kurt Weill who wrote it with Bertholt Brecht writing the lyrics. The comedy flew faster than a speeding light as did everything else, in a whirlwind and exuberant spectacle of dance, song and enticing comedy.
The said Kurt Weill (Kevin Lennon) was also big personality, stealing the show in every conversation and standing out in his showy, not to be ignored outfits. With Lotte on the verge of stardom the show crept ever closer and behind the scenes things were far from peaceful, with problems coming on all sides at Brecht who did well not to fall apart. In the end, the show finally became the Threepenny opera and when the song Mack the Knife was performed it was immediately loved by audience after audience, performance after performance, and word spread about how brilliant it was. But other forces were in play, as we saw when our four characters onstage were called to be part of the darkness in Berlin at this time. An officer dressed as a Nazi had the three in line questioning them about their lives as artists, leaving having decimated the show. Lotte was placed in a useful Jewish section of the world but their lives had already been thrown apart. Except that in the end, as we listen the strains of Mack the Knife at the end of the show, we were reminded that this great song was too well liked to just disappear. It seems appropriate to revive this musical now, at this time of turmoil in our own politics.