The Threepenny Opera, Norwich

CHRISTOPHER SMITH Lively, vigorous and cynical, Tim Baker's Royal National Theatre touring production made great impact in music and drama, at least most of the time, and a Playhouse audience predominantly of young people responded at the end with real enthusiasm.

CHRISTOPHER SMITH

Lively, vigorous and cynical, Tim Baker's Royal National Theatre touring production made great impact in music and drama, at least most of the time, and a Playhouse audience predominantly of young people responded at the end with real enthusiasm.

They chortled at every expletive and at every hint of eroticism. Whether they responded to the play any better for the specially written prologue was doubtful, and it certainly held up action that tended to linger.

Among the most notable of performances from a cast called up to sing and play instruments as well as act were David Rubin as Peachum, Michael Shaeffer as Macheath and Elizabeth Marsh as a leggy Jenny. Her voice rang out loud, clear and high to carry its tidings of discomfort.

When Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill created their classic expression of outrage in the late 20s, they based it on the 200-year-old Beggar's Opera. Following suit, Jeremy Sams and Anthony Meech have done more than translate the text. They have transformed it.

Though their updating was fun, it was something of a distortion. The German version was not set in 1928. Instead, it commented pungently on those troubled times with a caricature of Victorian London. Using this distancing was an important element that was jettisoned for topicality.

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The clever and economical set was the work of Mark Bailey, the lighting was by Nick Beadle and the musical director was Douglas Whyte.

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