Skip to main content

The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui

Dundee Rep
Four stars

Onstage, a little guy with limited ability bullies his way to the top. Surrounded by a coterie of yes-men,stylists and spin-doctors, he manufactures attitude, until he no longer has to scape-goat or hold people at gunpoint to get the popular vote. People believe him anyway, and willingly put him in power for what looks like an untouchable reign.

Joe Douglas' production of Bertolt Brecht's tragi-comic mash-up of Damon Runyon archetypes, Shakespearian villains and Nazi Germany starts off with a Tom Waits style medley of some of Brecht's greatest hits. Everybody's hanging out with the audience, looking sharp in 1930s mobster suits. Only when piano playing actor Brian James O'Sullivan sticks on a stupid false moustache and morphs into wannabe kingpin Arturo Ui do things take a lurch into a nightmare world where gangsterism and capitalism look pretty much the same thing.

Brecht wrote this play in 1941, while waiting for a visa to enter the United States, which was then still neutral regarding World War Two. It was seventeen years before the play was staged anywhere, and twenty before it received a production in English. If it was too hot to handle then, Alistair Beaton's revision of George Tabori's translation remains a breezily prescient satire.

With the audience nestled onstage either side of the action, Douglas' cast of nine ham up their cartoon-like depictions of Ui's gang. Stage managers and dressers rush on to shift furniture or oversee quick changes in full view of the audience. Exposed to the dictator's new clothes in this way, we're in the thick of what looks like a chilling prophecy of things to come .

The Herald, June 12th 2017



Popular posts from this blog

The Honourable K.W. Harman: Ltd Ink Corporation

31 Bath Road, Leith Docks, March 17th-20th

In a monumental shipping container down by Leith Docks, a Sex Pistols tribute band is playing Anarchy in the U.K.. on a stage set up in the middle of the room. Either side, various constructions have been built in such a way so viewers can window shop as they promenade from one end of the room to the next, with the holy grail of a bar at either end.

Inbetween, there’s a confession booth and a mock-up of a private detective’s office with assorted documentation of real-life surveillance pinned to the walls. Two people seem to be having a conversation in public as if they're on a chat show. An assault course of smashed windows are perched on the floor like collateral damage of post-chucking out time target practice. A display of distinctively lettered signs originally created by a homeless man in search of a bed for the night are clumped together on placards that seem to be marking out territory or else finding comfort in being together. Opp…

The Maids

Dundee Rep

Two sisters sit in glass cases either side of the stage at the start of Eve Jamieson's production of Jean Genet's nasty little study of warped aspiration and abuse of power. Bathed in red light, the women look like artefacts in some cheap thrill waxworks horror-show, or else exhibits in a human zoo. Either way, they are both trapped, immortalised in a freak-show possibly of their own making.

Once the sisters come to life and drape themselves in the sumptuous bedroom of their absent mistress, they raid her bulging wardrobe to try on otherwise untouchable glad-rags and jewellery. As they do, the grotesque parody of the high-life they aspire to turns uglier by the second. When the Mistress returns, as played with daring abandon by Emily Winter as a glamour-chasing narcissist who gets her kicks from drooling over the criminal classes, you can't really blame the sisters for their fantasy of killing her.

Slabs of sound slice the air to punctuate each scene of Mart…


Tramway, Glasgow until July 2nd
Four stars

In the dead of night, the audience are split in two and led under-cover into lamp-lit tented structures. Inside, what look like peasant women on the run lead us down a ramp and into a large circular pod. It feels part cathedral, part space-ship, and to come blinking into the light of such a fantastical structure after stumbling in the dark disorientates and overwhelms. Sat around the pod as if awaiting prayers to begin, we watch as performers Nerea Bello and Judith Williams incant mournfully on either side of the room. Their keening chorales embark on a voyage of their own, twisting around each other by way of the international language of singing. As if in sympathy, the walls wail and whisper, before starting to move as those on either side of the pod are left stranded, a gulf between them.

This international co-commission between Glasgow Life and the Merchant City Festival, Sydney Harbour Foreshaw Authority in Australia and Urbane Kienste …