“Art is always and everywhere the secret confession, and at the same time the immortal movement of its time.”
After a long week of mental detachment and shifts of focus, it has been refreshing to get back to Brecht. I last left off on a broad evaluation on the first act of “The Threepenny Opera,” and the humorously pessimistic comedy therein. This is by no means a subject that I am done exploring, though, for this installment, I’d like to touch on a few points that were made through the duration of Monday’s in class discussion; points which have in my mind brilliantly highlighted Marx’s influence on Brecht and his work.
Originally there was a clear juxtaposition between the audiences of this show (those who can pay) and those producing the show (those who are working). But, I had yet to previously consider the capitalist struggle that is ongoing in the opening of this play—the struggle of Mr. Peachum to maintain the integrity of his business and family v. Mac’s clear control over London’s lowly ‘elite’. My first impression of either side paid no consideration to the clues which eluded to these characters’ bourgeois self-perceptions. To me, both sides of the conflict were steeping in the underbelly, and in effect thriving while doing so. That is to say, they weren’t the ones with fake stumps. Yet, the sociopolitical argument that is unfolding before us in the first act of “Threepenny” is definitely one which calls to be deconstructed. I can only hope that this deconstruction will be guided more deeply in further group discussions.
In a transcript following the text of the newest Penguin Edition of this play, we are provided a transcript of an interview between Brecht and Giorgio Strehler which examines the social impact of “Threepenny”’s original run. In this transcript Brecht comments that the play was successful in bringing young proletarians into the theatre and, moreover, encouraging them to come back. In addition, he remarks that through the harsh comedic portrayal of the bourgeois, their very laughter became something which made them aware of the behaviors that were being criticized. In effect, while laughing at themselves, they now were self-conscious and resentful of certain behaviors. Now, if this isn’t within the epic idea of inspiring change in society, I’m just not sure what is. The analysis of this play promises to be evermore alluring.