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The Threepenny Opera review at Lyric Theatre, Belfast – ‘visually arresting’

Kerri Quinn in The Threepenny Opera at Lyric Theatre, Belfast. Photo: Christopher Heaney Kerri Quinn in The Threepenny Opera at Lyric Theatre, Belfast. Photo: Christopher Heaney
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For his debut production as artistic director of Northern Ireland Opera, Walter Sutcliffe has signalled his intention to broaden the company’s scope by partnering with the Lyric Theatre on a piece which crosses genres and audience demographics.

Through the show’s best known song, a visually arresting opening introduces a chilling line-up of pimps, prostitutes and ne’er do wells, who, one by one, descend into the hidden depths of the orchestra pit.

A neon-lit staircase and stark cross-hatched surround form the cornerstones of Dorota Karolczak and Wolfgang Goebbel’s atmospheric set and lighting designs. The basic colour palette is vibrant, but a symbolic dash of black has been flicked into the mix. The stairs offer a perilous central metaphor for the social climbing, dirty dealing and moral downsliding penetrating the dark heart of Brecht and Weill’s subversive musical satire.

Events unfold in the early 1950s, in the weeks leading up to the Coronation. In this corrupt underworld of spivs, hookers and thugs, a cacophony of Northern Ireland accents, offset by Steven Page’s creepily faux toff Peachum and Richard Croxford’s lip curling Scouse copper Jackie ‘Tiger’ Brown, subtly reference the tangled politics polluting our own world.

Sinead Hayes inspires a strong musical experience, encompassing a handful of memorable individual performances. Jayne Wisener’s cute, daffy Polly contrasts effectively with the sultry Jenny Diver, a lost soul boldly played by Kerri Quinn. But Mark Dugdale’s strongly sung Macheath is less a lethally charming criminal than a laddish Belfast rogue, an interpretation which rather skews the character’s toxic influence on the unfolding narrative.

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Visually and musically arresting, this raunchy production cries out for an injection of dramatic danger