The Three Penny Opera, set in the underbelly of Victorian London, was an ambitious choice for the Drama Club of PSGCAS
There is nothing as exciting as putting up a college theatre production for the students. The drama club of PSGCAS recently presented Bertolt Brecht’s Three Penny Opera. What made it special was that the play was the end product of a 10-day theatre workshop conducted by theatre director G. Channakeshava who had come all the way from Ninasam in Heggodu, Karnataka to familiarise the students with the nuances of theatre.
The students learnt about acting, singing and stage props. And the stage settings for the performance was noteworthy. In keeping with modern theatre, they were not too many of them and they were improvised out of cartons, saris and just a few tables, chairs and a step ladder, which, one learnt, were all made by the students with material lying around on the campus.
As the audience looked expectantly at the stage, they were startled to see first one beggar, then two and then an entire procession of them coming down the aisle, clad in torn clothes, dirty ones, bandaged, limping and some dragging themselves along the floor. The ploy worked, and the performers now had the undivided attention of the audience. The masks added to the intrigue and drama.
The Three Penny Opera was an ambitious choice of a play for the drama club to have chosen. Brecht adapted it from an 18th century Ballad Opera, and it was performed for the first time in Berlin in 1928. It dealt with the hypocrisy, grinding poverty, exploitation and of course the evils of capitalism. It was about bribes, murders, blackmails, conspiracies and betrayal. In that sense, it was contemporary. The young PSGCAS students pulled of the musical bits and everyone sat up when Tanvi Palaniappan, who played Polly Peacham, sang the Pirate Jenny song. The music arrangement by the students kept up the tempo and enlivened the proceedings. The bunch of kids who sat on a platform providing the score deserve applause for their more than creditable performance.
That is all it takes for school and college kids to come into their own and shine when they are provided the opportunity to work with theatre personalities such as Chennakesava. One hopes the Drama Club of PSGCAS continues to hold such workshops. And it goes to the credit of the students that in just 10 days, they learnt their lines and the many songs. Not once did they muff up their lines, or if they did, it was not obvious to those in the auditorium. And that is the hall mark of a good actor.
But, the organisers could have done better. As there were seasoned theatre people from Coimbatore amongst them, one wished they had paid more attention to the actors’ diction and dialogue delivery. The peripherals of a stage production are also important. The play was to have begun at 7 p.m, but people were still outside, waiting to be let in. The introduction could have been better delivered by the young man who read out, rather disinterestedly and disjointedly, from a piece of paper. If the actors could have learnt up so many lines, the presenter could have made alittle more effort. It was a two-hour-play and a clearer synopsis of the play would have helped the audience stay better connected.