Thursday, 1 September 2016

The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui, Aug 31, 2016 **1/2

Written by Bertolt Brecht 
Theatre Works until Sept 10, 2016 
Reviewer: Kate Herbert
Stars: **1/2
 This review also published in Herald Sun Arts online on Thurs Sept 1, 2016 & later in print. KH
Kym Lynch & Josiah Lulham & George Banders & Peter Paltos. Photo Ross Waldron
Bertolt Brecht was one of the great playwrights and theatrical innovators of 20th century Europe and his 1941 play, The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui, is a challenging, satirical allegory for Hitler’s rise to power in Germany in the 1930s. 

Brecht’s Arturo Ui (George Banders) is a Chicago mobster who plots to control the lucrative cauliflower market by systematically disposing of his rivals by corruption, fraud and murder and Ui’s gang members correlate directly to Hitler’s own gang of thugs.

Director, Phil Rouse, makes a valiant, but mostly unsuccessful attempt to stage the play in Brecht’s “epic theatre” style by incorporating actors’ direct address to audience, projections of scene titles and by exposing lighting and set changes to remind the audience of the artificiality of theatre.

However, this production is overwrought, the style overwhelms the content, the acting is clumsy and Brecht’s cunningly wrought political message is more like a club over the head, particularly when the actors reference Donald Trump’s presidential grab as a parallel to Hitler.

The opening scene is tightly choreographed and dynamic, with Ui’s gang’s dancing, gyrating and pelvic-thrusting delighted the high school audience, but this short, successful scene was, unfortunately, not an indication of things to come.

The recorded sound effects, such as the tinny sounds of a rowdy crowd, are ineffective, interrupting rather than enhancing any sense of Ui’s cheering or jeering followers.

The actors misrepresent Brecht’s performance style, “Alienation”, an acting method that stops actors immersing themselves emotionally in characters and story by employing a mode of presentational performance, gestural language and storytelling that educates.

Banders’ Ui is physically contorted, presumably to echo the deformed body of Shakespeare’s Richard III to whom Brecht compares Ui, but this rigidity does not illuminate the character and Banders’ own physical tension makes his performance awkward.

Kasia Kaczmarek as Clarke, one of Ui’s more rational followers, provides the most effective and subtle performance.

Other actors shout or laugh exaggeratedly, making their characters into two-dimensional caricatures, and their gestural language is often a distraction rather than a stylised amplification of a character’s dialogue or emotion.

Ultimately, this production fails to do justice to Brecht’s courageous, political satire that sought to educate his audience about the dangers of Hitler and his rise to power.

By Kate Herbert

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