Greenwich and Lewisham Young People's Theatre and Teatro Vivo team up on a promenade production of Brecht's anti-war play in the Royal Arsenal in Woolwich.
Played rough and loose but with a wagon-load of charm, this collaboration between Greenwich & Lewisham’s Young People’s Theatre and promenade performance veterans Teatro Vivo looks to rattle through Brecht’s anti-war masterpiece while keeping a family audience in tow.
As an adaptation it retains a little too much of the original’s moral complexity to keep young children fully engaged, and as a production it’s too broad to satisfy grown-ups, but even falling between two stools, there’s enough wit and vibrancy to keep the experience on track.
Denise Orita plays the lead with suitable ambiguity — that ‘hyena of war’ who sees her own family ripped apart by the conflict she’s come to rely on as benefactor — but it’s a tight performance by Michael Wagg as ‘Puffing Pete’, the lascivious and ruthless Cook, that makes the play’s final scenes an effective descent into misery.
Strong settings from musical director Edward Lewis and a neat design from Gordon Allum battle gamely with the resolutely unhelpful location, where cannons compete with advertising hoardings and voices ricochet inaudibly between the buildings. It may be intended as Brechtian distancing, but the choice of site too often feels alienating in all the wrong ways.