The Brecht/Weill Mahagonny in Antwerp

The Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny, the Brecht/Weill fable of a society created purely for wealth and the commodification of people and love, would appear to be an ideal work for the talents of Catalan director Calixto Bieito, and the revival of his production at Antwerp cannot have disappointed his loyal fans. He gave them all, and perhaps more than that: sex galore, nudity, masturbation, cruelty and, on a set piled up with caravans in an ugly jumble (designer Rebecca Ringst), a surfeit of meaningless cavorting. The participants had no individual personality, existing and acting for nothing except to express their “freedom”. That apart, the text was regarded as an irrelevancy. There was no drama communicated and nothing with which the audience could empathize. The apparent attempt to provide political immediacy by the daubing of BREXIT on a wall was simply gratuitous. Yes, I was alienated but not in the sense Brecht intended. Nor was Kurt Weill well served. Dmitri Jurowski’s interpretation had drive and energy but little of the shade and decadence which the score calls for. Although Czech tenor Ladislav Elgr was a forthright Jim Mahoney, he and the other soloists missed the lilt and tonal colouring necessary if the characters and their fate are to arouse some degree of sympathy. But obviously that was not Bieito’s aim. By the interval I had had enough and left the theatre.