In collaboration with four regional British theaters, the Graeae (pronounced GRAY-eye) Theatre Company has delivered an exciting and daring new production of an old standard, The Threepenny Opera. The Graeae is known for placing disabled actors center stage (company founder Jenny Sealey is deaf) and for activism on behalf of the disabled more generally. Naturally, a musical that focuses relentlessly on social inequalities and the ways in which society’s underdogs may exercise power caught their eye.
One of the production’s most innovative features is that the show is made available to the deaf not only through captions and titles, but through a sign-language interpreter who becomes part of the action. The actors also form the band (see photo below), à la John Doyle. Some actors are blind, some deaf; Mr Peachum is in a wheelchair. Disabled or not, the cast members all are strong actors and singers who deliver the goods. Jeremy Sams has updated his biting translations of the lyrics to encompass contemporary issues. Critics agree that the production bristles with challenges to theatrical orthodoxy and contemporary norms.
The production has already played in Nottingham. It will run in three more cities this spring: