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National Theatre
Peter Wood's group 1985-86

[Tim Curry]

MacHeath/Mack the Knife from Threepenny Opera

Mr. Curry has said that his year at the National was not a
very successful one. He has said in interviews that playing
Mac the Knife in The Threepenny Opera was one of his dream
roles, and yet when he got to play it, he said he "made a pig's
ear of it"

I have attempted to find reviews and comments on the three plays
he was in during that time and I have included his role in the
play 'The Rivals', also done for Peter Wood which was a very
successful production.

Love for Love - Tattle - 1985 (Lyttelton)

...(Tim Curry) was putting the finishing touches to a very
different sort of role, that of Tattle, a "half-witted beau"
in Congreve's Love for Love, the first production from Peter
Wood's group at the National Theatre.
"One of the hardest but most enjoyable things about
playing Tattle is to remember that he doesn't understand
what people think of him, and doesn't realize when they
are winding him up." (quote from Mr. Curry)
(Calm Chameleon)

...a splendid Tattle, all petulance and puppy fat...
(DRAMA 1986 'Favouring Curry' by A. Rissik)

..Yet overall it doesn't work. Partly that's because
(Peter) Wood sometimes loses his nerve and allows his cast
to fall into inconsistencies of style...
...Tim Curry, his big rubbery grins exuding smug glee,
admittedly has his moments as the opportunist Tattle...
(New Statesman Nov. 1985 'High & Low' by B. Nightingale)


In the early '60s, Peter Wood did a production of 'Love for
Love' with Sir Lawrence Olivier in the role of Tattle.

Dalliance - 1986- Theodore-

I also recommend 'Dalliance', Tom Stoppard's oddly moving
adaptation of Schnitzler's 1985 play 'Liebelei.' The play
is a commentary on Viennese life at the turn of the century,
where working-class popsies are invited to candlelit dinners
at their consorts' homes on the servant's night off, but not
to their boxes at the opera.....
Peter Wood has staged the play like an Antony Tudor ballet:
much is made of theatrical gesture. When a diner a quatre,
which includes Theodore (Tim Curry), a pudgy roue, and Mizi
(Sally Dexter), a cheerful seamstress who has no illusions
about her role, is interrupted by the doorbell, the women
are ushered out back.
(The Nation, July 1986)

Threepenny Opera - Mack the Knife - 1986 (Olivier)

Threepenny Opera is a sleeker, more savage piece than Gay's
somewhat picturesque 'Beggar's Opera', and Mack the Knife is
a razor-sharp Capitalist gangster, less courtly and more deadly
than that roguish highwayman, MacHeath. Curry feels that the
time is right for the show. It has become fashionable recently
for rock stars to record Kurt Weill songs and, as he says, 'the
declamatory quality of an actor's singing voice is a joy.' Mack
the Knife is a suave, glinting hoodlum, a Weimar James Bond, and
Curry is a sly, sinister actor with a big, dangerous voice. At
his best, Curry is the most frightening kind of urban sophisticate,
too clever to be entirely frivolous.
(DRAMA 1986 'Favoring Curry' by Andrew Rissik)

The Threepenny Opera seems less politically scathing and socially
pointed that 'The Beggar's Opera', Gay more authentically Brechtian
than Brecht himself. Mark you, part of the problem is the writing.
Brecht could certainly be adepter as adaptor. The motivation is
less empathically established, the plot less clearly chronicled than
in the original.
....What's wanted is sardonic tone, garish atmosphere, two commodities
not consistently on offer at the National (production of TPO). Now
(Peter) Wood opts for naturalistic detail, realistic spectacle, like
the cathouse from which the archcriminal MacHeath escapes the cops;
now he prefers grotesquerie, caricature, in the form of police with
dog-masks; now he doesn't seem to know what he wants, or why. And
if we honourably except Sara Kestelman's Mrs. Peachum, whose slant-
eyes exude a certain sly malice, there's no meanness, no bite, not
even much energy to be found in the acting: not from Stephen Moore,
who is pretty ponderous as the trader in down and out flesh, Jonathan
Peachum; not from Sally Dexter as his daughter Polly nor from Joanna
Foster as her rival, Lucy Brown; not even from Tim Curry, playing
their joint lover and Peachum's enemy, MacHeath himself. In fact
I can't recall an evening at the National when the cast seemed more
tentative, more unsure if itself, more (dare I guess?) demoralized.
(New Statesman March 21, 1986 by B. Nightingale)

On the National's Olivier stage, Peter Wood's 'The Threepenny
Opera' opens with a funeral parade-brilliantly choreographed
by the star of the National's 'Guys and Dolls', David Toguri-
worthy of New Orleans, and then proceeds to go rapidly downhill.
Nobody here seems to have decided quite what period they are in
(though the coronation of Queen Victoria would be the most likely
bet) or whether they are celebrating a classic musical or engaged
in a vicious satire about capitalist corruption. Certainly, having
the show sponsored by Citicorp and Citibank may have added to the
confusion, but every possible style from pantomime to Mafia movie
is briefly invoked here, while all we really are left with are
those great songs. Nobody can sing them the way Lenya once did,
but Tim Curry as Macheath does a nice line in Soho spivs, while
Sally Dexter, one of the National's rare discoveries, does a
terrific 'Barbara Song.'
(Our Theatres in the Eighties)


The Threepenny Opera was the first production at the National to
be paid for by sponsorship by businesses rather than patronage.
This had many repercussions, many felt it was a loss of dignity
to take money from businesses who expected a financial return.
This may have had something to do with the quality of production,
and the mood of the actors, audience, and critics.

The Rivals - Bob Acres - 1983 (Olivier)

(Tim Curry) has worked with Peter Wood several times before,
most recently in The Rivals, where the result was a
memorable portrayal of the "booby" Bob Acres.
Curry had been swashing and buckling away as the Pirate
King in the musical Pirates of Penzance in Drury Lane.
He hung up his purple tights, put on two stones of extra
weight, and played Acres as a stocky, bashful young squire
with a heart of gold and a smile that stretched from ear
to ear.
It was a useful and important step. For one thing, it was
a reaction against the glamour of roles like the Pirate King,
a way of "getting this over with now, because vanity can be
such a huge trap" (quote from Mr. Curry). It was also an
opportunity to play someone good-natured and optimistic.
(Calm Chameleon)

The mostly exemplary cast usually props up the sags in the direction
even if it can't always redeem the endless plotting that comes with
Sheridan's otherwise acute post-Restoration comedy of manners.
Tim Curry, as the country bumpkin Bob Acres, transforms a buffoonish
oaf into a touching loser. Wearing a sly, sheepish grin and a ridic-
ulously Baroque powdered wig, he is at once a vulnerable seeker of
unobtainable romance and a clownish martyr to his society's empty,
foppish fashions.
(New York Times theatre review June 19, 1983)

...and then there's Tim Curry as the rustic social climber Bob
Acres, his giant wig spraying powder as he feverishly apes the
overripe manners of the leisure class.
(Newsweek 9/5/83)

...they sweep on to the Olivier stage like some invading army
under the superlative command of Peter Wood to give us what must
surely be the definitive postwar revival of Sheridan's Bath nights.
..Michael Horndern...Geraldine McEwan...around these two blazing
stars...Mr Curry (as Bob Acres)...made South Bank debuts of extreme
(Our Theatres of the Eighties)

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