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Aftereffects: The Threepenny Opera

The play centers on an unethical, antiheroic criminal Macheath (Mack the Knife) who marries Polly Peachum, the only daughter of the big boss of the beggars who runs the streets of London. Disappointed of her daughter’s sudden decision, he plans to condemn Macheath of his doings and have him executed publicly by hanging; however, his attempts to entrap and pull down Macheath are hindered by the fact that Tiger Brown, the Chief of Police, is Macheath’s old pal. Still, Peachum asserts his influence and eventually leads Macheath to his arrest and death sentence. Macheath avoids his fate through a deux ex machina (a theatrical device), wherein an unexpected character is inserted to intervene with or resolve the protagonist’s situation. His remarkable end is stopped by the surprising declaration coming from the messenger of the Queen relaying Her Majesty’s message to grant Macheath Royal pardon. Despite all his doings, he escapes the finale usually described by the part wherein the bad guy becomes prosecuted and imprisoned. Here, Macheath unique dark character is the axis of the story’s revolution.

The Three Penny Opera written by Bertolt Brecht and Elizabeth Haputmannn

Three Penny Opera could be a ridiculed reflection of the status quo of a society influenced by the politics used in London which theater-wisely mimics what is actually happening in the Philippines. It is a portrayal of the actual past occurrences in the British system which later repeats itself as an expose of the condition of politics in the Philippines. It tackles different aspects of the society and the connections that mesh within, directly affecting the courses of people’s lives. It’s like a butterfly effect; one small move can cause a lot of fragile consequences. A single corrupt leader can make more of what he/she is. However, the interference of the ones seated at the highest administrative positions in the system can change the pace of Filipino karma, the thought of payback at the right time.

Personally, the play’s theatrical theme made me enjoy it more. The melodies blended with the sets of dialogue suit its interpretation. The costume and props such as the signboards, the extended sidecar, the stairway to the upper exit, the bed set, and all others, create a British atmosphere similar yet a bit contrasting to the Philippine setting; similar in a manner by which it entails the type of poverty both countries have and how the impoverished life was assisted by some stereotypes such as that of bar girls (as entertainers), of policemen (as unkind, fed-up, owner-loyal pigs), and of street children (as disabled, displaced family children), while different in a sense that it tackles country-based concerns inserted in a British setting.

Also, captions are flashed on the back screen and in the beginning, characters carry with them picket-signs showing quotes conceivably generalized to be true. It slams the question: “Who is the greater criminal: he who robs a bank or he who founds one?” It is also a particular representation of modern comical musicale, mainly mixed up with jazz. Other than that, it promotes awareness of the current affairs among Filipinos. 

Moreover, the actors successfully grabbed the audience’s attention, and somehow managed to mask their mistakes onstage. Other than that, they were able to justify their characters in such a way that in my favorites list I elevated its rank next to my top favorite, Hinabing Pakpak ng Ating mga Anak. What interests me most is how the play tackles the different scenarios of the “dirty” living, which seems like an adaptation from London’s past. What I mean of “dirty” living is one which is used to the banging sound of an arbitrary gunshot or passive to the ongoing connivance of the authority in the continuous presence of heinous crimes and other unlawful acts. 

Basically, I love the play for the reason that I felt the call to be more vigilant of what’s happening around me. Art is not just used to attract attention; it is also created to better understand why it deserves that attention. In every work of art lies a perception which may vary from viewer to viewer, and this defines its significance.


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