Arturo Ui is one of Brecht’s most outstanding plays.
One glosses over the end of the tragedy, and others write modern tragedies.
Here the tragedy of power and corruption.
It starts quietly: we’re in Chicago – and the whole world knows that Chicago in the ’30s is Al Capone.
So seeing a story about rotten fruits and vegetables in Chicago doesn’t bother you.
In the beginning.
That’s how Brecht, like all great writers, manages to keep his audience in the room.
He won’t tell us: you’re just as scared / or rotten / as my characters.
He tells us: look at the cowards and rotten people.
we wanted to reduce Ui, which appeared on stage in Germany in 1958, to a fable about the coming to power of the Nazis.
That’s certainly true – but it’s much deeper and more humane.
What does Ui do to get up there? He takes Acting lessons. “Communication” classes, in modern language.
He talks well. He talks in verse.
Orwell has also demonstrated the benefits of language mastery…
Then he cheats.
Then, he proposes an arrangement.
And those who aren’t happy…
Well, those who aren’t happy, they hear the sound of the gun clattering very close.
So it’s true, it’s not a tragedy in the classical – French – sense of the word.
There are funny moments.
It is the tragedy of the losers who take power and remain losers in clothes too big for them.
They sow desolation and destruction, in that it is tragic.
But there is nothing great, nothing political, nothing heroic about them. In that it is modern.
And that is why a theatre is honoured to present this masterful play on stage. We’re not so much out of Ui’s time.
Featured Image from : Woodbin Theatre, Geelong, Australia