Mack the Knife

Oran Mor, Glasgow

Mary Brennan

five stars

Oh this script has cunning twists, dear

And the cast pitch them just right

Just a sharply clever piece, dear

One you should have in your sights...

if not at Oran Mor, then at the Traverse next week. The return of Mack the Knife – as part of the Play, Pie and a Pint 500 celebrations – is as much of a five star treat as when it premiered here in June 2016. There are a couple of cast changes – Kevin Lennon and Keith Fleming step into the roles initially played by Harry Ward and Jimmy Chisholm – but the bigger picture (framed by life in Berlin 1928) still teases and pleases, as before, until the closing scenes that suddenly hit poignantly hard, even if you already know the outcome.

At first, however, there’s romance – chantoosie Lotte Lenye (Angela Darcy) hitches her aspirations (and affections) to talented composer Kurt Weill (Kevin Lennon) and in a trice they’re harmonising and dancily in step. Bertolt Brecht appears – George Drennan, sporting Bertolt’s trademark cap and spouting the playwright’s politically-infused notions about the ‘summer potboiler’ that would, after various hiccups, emerge as The Threepenny Opera.

Without those hiccups – merrily detailed by Fullarton’s writing and direction – it’s unlikely that Mack the Knife would ever have existed. Weill wrote it as a matter of last-minute expediency when the leading man, Harald Paulsen decided to play Macheath as a dandified toff!

Keith Fleming is doubly, and wittily, distinctive as both the affected Paulsen and the equally ego-driven Kurt Gerron, the singer who became world famous for one song, yes...Mack the Knife. Along the way there’s more than one bravura song’n’dance, with Angela Darcy – voice throaty with menace and eyes glinting with gleeful vengeance – unleashing the blitzkrieg of Pirate Jenny’s song and taking no prisoners. But as the Nazis rose to power, prisoners were taken. Jews like Brecht and Weill escaped abroad. Gerron stayed. How this script has harrowing twists, dear…