THE RESISTIBLE RISE OF ARTURO UI
by Bertolt Brecht translated by George Tabori.
Minerva Theatre Minerva Theatre Oaklands Park PO19 6AP To 28 July 2012.
Mon-Sat 7.45pm Mat Sat & 12, 19, 25 July 2.30pm.
Audio-described 27 July, 28 July 2.30pm.
Runs 2hr 55min One interval.
TICKETS: 01243 781312.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 11 July.
A triumph for Chichester in its 50th year, and for its Artistic Director.
Low criminals thrive on corruption in high places, and great political crimes are committed by little men – two points central to Bertolt Brecht’s 1941 parade of comedy and terror, where Chicago gangster Arturo Ui is a Hitler parallel rising through events drawn from German interwar history.
Near the play’s centre, as comedy and terror combine, a wounded woman pleads for someone to stop Arturo and his henchmen in their violent protection racket. Nobody does, onstage. The sense of fear’s palpable too in the audience –only Pip Simmons’ 1975 An Die Musik ever made audiences as complicit in Nazi terror.
Arturo Ui burst onto the British stage in the late 1960s, with Leonard Rossiter a shuffling, muttering Ui. Henry Goodman plays the role without Rossiter’s comic incompetence (he went on to play sitcom in Rising Damp and Reginald Perrin), bringing instead an intelligence undermined by fear; bullying others through his enforcers, he’s repeatedly scared by noises, looks for enemies inside a piano and fiddles with spare bits of wood to create his swastika-like emblem.
Brecht offsets Ui’s small-time nature with references to Shakespearean villains, while Arturo acquires his grandiose theatrical manner from a drunken actor, played by Keith Baxter with quiet observational torpor. Ui distorts his mannerisms into Hitlerian gestures and stance with terrifying hilarity.
There’s fine acting throughout, especially from the Nazi sidekicks, David Sturzaker’s fresh-faced, smiling Givola/Göring, Joe McGann’s threateningly argumentative Giri/Goebbels and Michael Feast, bringing passion and seamless cruelty to Arturo’s closest ally and enforcer Roma/Röhm.
In the sixties director Michael Blakemore accompanied Brecht’s final warning that other dictators would come, with quotes from Prague and Vietnam. A longer perspective on Hitler and the recent history of genocide lead Jonathan Church at Chichester to a different closing visual shock. And a final aural detail.
Both hefty Wagner and something like Chopin’s funeral march have featured among Matthew Scott’s music. Finally, the Pilgrim’s song from Wagner’s Tannhäuser, heard at the start in a jazzy popular version, is appropriated, to cloak Ui’s grim rally, with its cowed Chicago locals swelled by refugees from nearby occupied Cicero, in full operatic splendour.
Master of Ceremonies/Ragg: Colin Stinton.
Dogsborough/Judge: William Gaunt.
Giuseppe Givola: David Sturzaker.
Ernesto Roma: Michael Feast.
Emanuele Giri/O’Casey: Joe McGann.
Arturo Ui: Henry Goodman.
Butcher/Defence Counsel: Alex Giannini.
Bowl: Mark Carlisle.
Clark/Prosecution: Rolf Saxon.
Sheet/Fish: Peter Moreton.
Young Dogsborough: James Northcote.
Dockdaisy: Amanda Gordon.
Servant/Court Physician/Irina: Charlie Hamblett.
James Greenwool: Steve Simmonds.
Actor: Keith Baxter.
Woman/Betty Dullfoot: Lizzie McInnerny.
Gangsters/Citizens: David Champion, Charlie Hancock, Lawrence Tate, Aaron Tavaler.
Director: Jonathan Church.
Designer: Simon Higlett.
Lighting: Tim Mitchell.
Sound: Mike Walker.
Music: Matthew Scott.
Dialect coach: Penny Dyer.
Movement: Marcello Magni.
Fight director: Terry King.
Script consultant: Alistair Beaton.
Assistant director: Tom Attenborough.