Brecht’s Arturo Ui was irresistible

The directors Mark Fraser and Tom Wansey described this term’s Senior School production, as follows:

In a period of such political surprise and upheaval, it seemed a good time to stage ‘The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui’, Bertolt Brecht’s satirical parallel between the rise of Hitler and his henchmen in 1930s Germany and Ui and his gangsters in Chicago.

In many ways, the key word in the title is ‘resistible’; Brecht wanted his audience to understand the importance of political engagement and to recognise that we all have a role to play if we are to avoid the kind of divisive, hate-driven regime Hitler went on to lead. For Brecht, theatre had to have topical relevance and recent events in America gave us a perfect lens through which to explore his themes.

Brecht also felt that the audience must not be allowed to watch the events on stage passively; instead the drama had to engage their intellects as well as their emotions. We wanted the audience to have an immersive experience and it was for that reason that we decided early in the planning stages to run a pop-up restaurant alongside the production, so they might feel as if they were at an American political rally. In reality, of course, we didn’t run it! That was all down to the expertise and energy of Miss Laura Downton and her team of Upper Sixth Hospitality students.

After auditions early in the term and two workshops to introduce Brechtian theatre to the cast, the actors were then given time to research their roles and to learn their lines while the team of designers (which was bigger even than the cast) worked on their respective disciplines. The actors then had only three days of rehearsal in which to prepare the performances.

As a company, we both felt this was one of the most co-operative and professional that we have worked with. They collaborated brilliantly, their attention to detail was exceptional and the energy and imagination they brought to a difficult play led directly to performances that were provocative and challenging; just as Brecht might have expected. They deserve to be very proud of their efforts.