by Bertolt Brecht translated by Frank McGuinness.

Blackeyed Teatre Tour to 9 April 2011.
Runs 2hr 30min One interval.
Review: Martin Franks 21 March 2011 at The Mumford Theatre Cambridge.

Professional, exciting, historical political theatre, ideal for the Brecht lover.
No wonder Black Eyed Theatre have built up such a reputation for themselves. This is a highly professional and exciting ensemble of actors, tightly and inspiringly directed. And the set design is cleverly neat for a tour.

The chunky wheeled-wall deep flat is ideal for the aggressive, earthy energy of a good Brecht production – the noose on a long rope and the coffin the other flexible, poignant pieces. And this is good Brecht for theatre-goers as well as students. Frank McGuinness’s translation is full of lovely poetry within the essential Brechtian ‘punch’ while the music, singing and instrumental playing are beautifully Weillian.

Anna Glynn’s central performance as Grusha, as well as her nemisis Natella (the two mothers) is spellbinding in its variety of style as well as engagement. What a tour de force is her schizophrenic ‘mask and no mask’ debate between her two characters. In fact the mask-play generally, with beautiful playful body acting – particularly by Glynn and also Lee Drage as the Corporal – is suitably grotesque and caricatured. I would like some greater subtlety, though it’s not what Brecht intended. Tom Neill, the highly skilled director, knows this.

Yet the start is a bit stagey in its presentation. These are real peasants with a real dilemma, not, as they seemed here, actors. And Brecht’s concept of ‘alienation’, to disgtacne te spectator, doesn’t justify this. And while the projections stress the contemporary relevance of political theatre (as the students in the audience seemed to appreciate). But is Brecht any longer politically relevant?

What he is is theatrically fascinating and historically important. And in the hands of Blackeyed Theatre this is sufficient to make a powerful, emotional and intellectually stimulating night out.

Azdak/Aniko/Ensemble: Ruth Cataroche.
Simon Chachava/Corporal/Jessup/Ensemble: Lee Drage.
Grusha Vachnadze/Natella Abashvilli/Ensemble: Anna Glynn.
Georgi Abashvilli/Fat Prince/Lavrenti/Ensemble: Greg Patmore.
Arkadi Tsheidze/Ensemble: Paul Taylor.

Director: Tom Neill.
Designer: Victoria Spearing.
Lighting: Oliver Welsh.
Composer/Musical Director : Ron McAllister.
Costume/Masks: Fiona Davis.

2011-03-23 20:54:28

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