Rise Of Arturo Ui
By Bertolt Brecht
Translated by Stephen Starkey
Directed by Walter Meierjohann
30th September - 22nd October 2011
Photograph by Stephen Vaughan
Although written in 1941, in an allegory on the inexorable rise to power
of Adolf Hitler, Bertolt Brecht's masterpiece has strong contemporary
overtones as the world teeters on meltdown. A dark tale for dark times.
Arturo Ui, who begins as a two-bit mobster in Chicago, rises to become
a godfather, dirrectly paralleling Hitler's transformation from a low
life political agitator to become a despot.
Each episode of the play is a parody of a specific key part of Hitler's
ascendancy, for example the 1933 Reichstag Fire and the Nazi annexation
of Austria in 1938. Each of these defining incidents is conveyed on a
neon- lit message board suspended above the stage.
Although the play is very comic at times, the underlying message is resonant
with deep meaning. How could the world sleepwalk and allow Hitler to frogmarch
his way to almost global dominance. Who could argue against a similar
situtaion developing in the near future - with some countries on the point
of disintegration and chaos, the vacuum could be filled by another megalomaniac
Ui (Ian Bartholomew) unmercifully tramples over politicians and gangsters
in his pursuit to control the cauliflower market (perhaps Brecht comparing
humans with vegetables) in America during the depression during the 1930s.
As the play progresses Ui becomes more Hitler-like in apearance, ultimately
addressing his adoring disciples in Nuremburg, with his arms folded in
front of him, strutting his stuff.
Bartholomew is ably assisted by an ensemble of eight male actors who
play put upon businessmen, psychopathic gangsters, greasy politicians
and innocent bystanders who fall foul of Ui's bloodthirsty trail of destruction.
Leanne Best - the lone actress in the cast - and a regular performer
at the Playhouse and Everyman, - notably in Unprotected - gives a sterling
performance, effortlessly switching into different character modes throughout.