Brecht's reworking of John Gay's The Beggar's Opera was first performed in 1928, but both it and Gay's version have stood the test of time well. The savage dog-eat-dog low-life world they share still has strong resonances today. Brecht's book sharpened the political satire inherent in Gay's work. Weill wrote a score that has become part of Western culture's consciousness: jazzy, syncopated, dissonant, and full of inventive melody, it captures the essence of the mocking, ironic tone of the book.
Critic Andrew Rissik found the National's casting inspired: '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'. And Sally Dexter, as one of Mack's two wives, was praised by Our Theatre in the Eighties as 'one of the National's rare discoveries' who 'does a terrific 'Barbara Song''.