FEAR AND MISERY OF THE THIRD REICH
By Bertolt Brecht
Translated by John Willett.
The Brockley Jack Studio theatre, 41- Brockley Road, London SE4 2DH to 3 February 2018.
Tues- Sat 7.30pm/
Runs 1h 45 mins One interval.
TICKETS: 0333 666 3366.
Review: William Russell 18 January.
Director Rachael Bellis has gone to great pains to link Brecht’s playlets about the Third Reich with what is facing the world today and how Trump, like Hitler, was voted in by the people. I am not sure it actually works – the voices on the radio are those of Donald Trump or people talking about the threat of the moment, Brexit, for instance, the newspaper condemned as dangerous reading is the Evening Standard and people have mobile phones. It hardly seems necessary. Brecht’s scenes of life under the Fascists do not really need to be adapted to the present day for an audience to grasp that the world he has created could return all too easily.
She could, I think, have trusted the plays more. That said the production is fluid, the feeling of a society where suddenly everyone is an informer, nothing is sacred, there is obligatory political correctness and tomorrow it could be you in the concentration camp is conjured up very effectively.
In a sound cast Hugo Trebels particularly good as the father of a family at home one wet Sunday who is voicing too many opinions for his own good. Informers are everywhere. Suddenly he and his wife start to worry. Has he said too much in front of the maid? Have they offended the block supervisor? The mother, who has given their spoilt son some money, realises the boy, a member of the Hitler Youth, has disappeared. Has he gone to report them for something they have done that has upset him? Is he with their neighbours? Is there a party meeting he might be attending? Their mounting hysteria is beautifully conveyed and when the child – an impressive William Ross-Fawcett – returns claiming he had gone to spend the money on chocolate doubt still lingers as to what he actually got up to. There are other powerful scenes – the interviewer in the factory pretending all is well with the sullen workforce, the woman packing to leave for Holland and possibly safety, although we know it probably will not be the case.
The argument is this could happen again if we repeat the mistakes of the past – as one of the Fascist thugs says – “Broke one moment, next day running the government. Rags to riches in a single day.” It is a well acted, well directed stimulating evening, but had she trusted Brecht more it might have been even more powerful as a warning of the dangers of going along with things because a quiet life is the easier option.
Clark Alexander; Faye Maughan; Hugo Trebels; LaTanya Peterkin; Rhiannon Sommer; William Riss-Fawcett.
Director: Rachae;l Bellis.
Designer: Afke Laarakker.
Sound & Lighting designer: Chuma Ememboluy.
Composer: Clifford Hughes.
Assistant Director: Sophia Start.