“In five minutes, I can turn any man into such a pitiful wreck it would make a dog weep. Is it my fault if people don’t weep?” – Peachum (1:3)
Brecht’s early spectacular (which was spectacularly successful – not often the case for his work in his lifetime) features crime and punishment as close friends, a beggars’ bureau, a kind of anti-wedding burlesque, ballads including ‘…of Immoral Earnings’ and ‘…of Sexual Obsession’, all building to a public execution that’s aborted for the audience’s sake (stage-signposted: ‘THE APPEARANCE OF THE DEUS EX MACHINA’).
“Mankind can keep alive thanks to its brilliance / In keeping its humanity repressed / For once you must try not to shirk the facts / Mankind is kept alive due to bestial acts.” (Second Threepenny Finale: ‘What Keeps Mankind Alive’)
See video above for taster trailer of what happened when Robert Wilson joined forces with the Berliner Ensemble for a recent production.
“The law was made for one thing alone, for the exploitation of those who don’t understand it, or are prevented by naked misery from obeying it.” – Peachum (3:7)
Peachum, the king of the beggars, may have the quotes here, but Macheath (who would enter popular culture as ‘Mac the Knife’) has a hell of a black wit, and Polly, Peachum’s daughter, delivers an antisocial star turn with her song (and imagined alter-ego) ‘Pirate Jenny’ (“As they ask which has got to die / And you’ll hear me as I softly answer: the lot!”).
“Our judges are absolutely incorruptible: it’s more than money can do to make them give a fair verdict.” – Peachum (3:7)