by Bertolt Brecht translated by Stephen Sharkey.

Nottingham Playhouse Welington Circus NG1 5AF To 12 November 2011.
Tue-Sat 7.45pm Mat 5 Nov 2.30pm 10 Nov 1.30pm.
Audio-described 9 Nov.
BSL Signed 5 Nov 2.30pm, 11 Nov.
Captioned 10 November 7.45pm
Brecht Masterclass 8 November 4.30pm.
Brecht Lecture 9 November 6pm.
Runs 2hr 30min One interval.

TICKETS: 0115 9419419.
Review: Jen Mitchell 3 November.

Stark, shocking and uncomfortably amusing.
Themes of politics and corruption run through the history of theatre. Here the criminality and corruption of gangland Chicago are used as an allegory to explore Hitler’s rise to power and to reveal him as the criminal and thug Brecht believed him to be. And Stephen Sharkey’s translation is everything Brecht would have wanted it to be.

The staging of the piece in this Liverpool/Nottingham co-production underlines the brutality: artifice is stripped away from the outset. Ti Green’s minimalist set emphasises the severity of the piece. Digitally-displayed titles at the start of each scene point-up parallels between Nazi Germany and its American-gangstetr counterpart.

Giving the audience no time to fall under a theatrical spell, Leanne Best opens the play as a strutting, shouting fairground barker. The only female cast member, Best glides effortlessly between roles from the stereotypical gangster’s moll to the flirtatious wife and grieving widow of Dullfleet.

Ian Bartholomew’s Ui is a superbly observed villain. Growing from vegetable trade protection and racketeering, his thirst for power is unstoppable until he is finally seen in place on the podium in a Hitler style rant reminiscent of a Nuremburg rally. The transition is both fascinating and frightening. The comic interlude of the drunken Shakespearean actor giving Ui lessons in deportment and elocution provides light relief, mocking the root of Hitler’s Nazi salute and his stance. Bartholomew morphs seamlessly from gangster to evil dictator.

Ui’s sidekickGiri (Mike Goodenough), representing Göring, is a chilling, giggling thug who collects his victim’s hats. Röhm, head of the Nazi storm-troopers and represented by Roma, seemingly Ui’s closest ally, is finely observed by Nick Moss. The quality of all of the acting is a great strength of this production.

Tight choreography and direction ensure the action is slick and sharp. The scene in the court room as an innocent vegetable trader is accused of the warehouse fire (the parallel is easy to spot here), is a razor-sharp masterpiece.

Challenging and thought provoking whilst remaining hugely entertaining, this is another successful collaboration between the Nottingham Playhouse and Liverpool’s Everyman/Playhouse.

Arturo Ui: Ian Bartholomew.
Barker/All Women: Leanne Best.
Givola: Nick Cavaliere.
Dogsborough Jnr/Mulberry/Fish/Inna/Trader Three: Eliot Giuralarocca.
Giri: Mike Goodenough.
Dogsborough/Actor/Judge/Ignatius/Dullfleet/Ciceronian: William Hoyland.
Flake/Ragg/Harry Cohen/Trader One: Nicholas Khan.
Clark/Sheet/Defense: Robin Kingsland.
Roma: Nick Moss.
Butcher/Trader Two/Prosecution/Bowl: Siôn Tudor Owen.

Director: Walter Meierjohann.
Designer: Ti Green.
Lighting: Mike Gunning.
Sound/Composer: Nikola Kodjabashia.
AV/Costume: Louis Price.
Movement: Carolina Valdes.

2011-11-05 10:03:29

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