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The Threepenny Opera (Adjusted For Inflation): Brecht’s seminal musical autotuned, reimagined and remixed.

BY Imogen Gardam | 21-Aug-2018
Sydney based indie ensemble make their Melbourne debut with a bold new devised adaptation of Brecht’s The Threepenny Opera.
Venue: The Butterfly Club
Address: Carson Place, off Little Collins Street, Melbourne VIC 3000
Date: September 10 - 16
Time: 10:00pm
Ticket: $25 - $34
Buy / Ticket: https://thebutterflyclub.com/show/the-threepenny-opera-adjusted-for-inflation
Web: https://thebutterflyclub.com/show/the-threepenny-opera-adjusted-for-inflation
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EMail: montaguebasement@gmail.com
Call: 0435341267
The Threepenny Opera (Adjusted for Inflation). Credit: Saro Lusty-Cavallari
When a young Bertolt Brecht, his friend Kurt Weill and his partner Elizabeth Haupmann created The Threepenny Opera to make a quick buck off an old English ballad opera it was infamously a disaster. Deadlines were missed, budgets were blown, rehearsals were missed and lines dropped and the night before it opened the egotistical lead demanded Weill write him a theme song to open the show (resulting in the now ubiquitous jazz standard Mac the Knife).

It’s not exactly a recipe for success but The Threepenny Opera endured as a classic in its native Germany as well as numerous runs throughout the world. Independent theatre company Montague Basement’s contemporary reworking returns to the spirit of that original raggedy production, with five young performers cramming the two-and-a-half-hour epic musical into sixty minutes at the intimate Butterfly Club for the Melbourne Fringe.

“As we started to pull apart the play, the sheer weight of its themes were almost crushing,” says director Saro Lusty-Cavallari. “It uses a frivolous Victorian crime story to tackle capitalism in its entirety and when you start to unpack that as performers in 2018, the very possibility doing of that comes into question. In essence the show has become more a performance about performing The Threepenny Opera than a performance of it. It’s constantly looping back and asking whether political theatre is even possible anymore. Which feels appropriately Brechtian in its own way.”

Typifying this unconventional approach, Weill’s famous music has been reworked in the style of electropop and hip-hop with the performers singing exclusively through the increasingly ubiquitous autotune effect popularised by artists like Cher, T-Pain and Kanye West.

“There’s been this really interesting trend in popular music lately where performers who don’t have the vocal range are using auto-tune as a way to express themselves with complete freedom. It’s a democratization of the voice, which resonates with the way Brecht wrote these characters and their songs. It’s amazing to hear these 1928 German ballads reimagined as autotuned pop songs,” says Lusty-Cavallari.

Montague Basement have established a name in Sydney’s independent scene over the past four years, with a yearly presence at the Sydney Fringe, including their 2017 acclaimed production of Sarah Kane’s Cleansed as well as adaptations of Ovid’s Metamorphoses and Medea.

The Threepenny Opera (Adjusted For Inflation) opens at the Butterfly Club as part of the Melbourne Fringe on the 10th September and runs until the 16th. Booking recommended.