That Bastard Brecht

thatbastardbrecht

Mark Howard as Brecht

Theatre (new writing, drama)
Venue
152
Paradise in Augustines – Sanctuary
21:35
Aug 23-25
1 hour 35 minutes

Wow! What a show. Fifteen original songs, amazing choreography and sharp dialogue tell the story of Brecht through the eyes of Elizabeth Hauptmann (Tove Berkhout). Hauptmann first met Brecht in 1922 when she came to Berlin.

Hauptmann is said to have written most of The Threepenny Opera (1928) but was denied any credit while Brecht lived. She also, reportedly, wrote at least half of the Mahagonny-Songspiel (1927), including one of the best known songs, the “Alabama Song“, but again was not credited.

The cast, who hail from Melbourne, Australia, have an incredible energy and the pace is fast. It doesn’t hurt that some of the ensemble are strikingly good looking either! Myra Davidson playing Lotte Lenya was stunning.

Brecht had an open relationship where his partner and later wife,from 1930 until his death in 1956, Helene Wiegel (Jenn Walter) was happy for him to have other female lovers. Mark Howard plays him as an egotistical charmer, full of charisma – a rock star of his day. He struts, he rants, he cajoles and persuades. He talks of collaboration and progressive values of equality but you know that whatever he says (or sings!) there is a boss and only one. Does the fact that his female partners (mainly) put up with this make Brecht any less of a bastard?

As Nuworks Theatre point out Brecht never lived up to his Socialist principles when it came to money:

“He was a Marxist, presumably believing in a redistribution of wealth and the plight of the poor. That’s the general tenor of all his best works. Yet this is at odds with his lack of desire to share his own wealth, even amongst his closest and utterly deserving of collaborators. They must have been paid but little in proportion to Brecht and then there’s the old, tasteless joke (no pun intended) that he paid most of them in semen and as for literary recognition, most of them never received other than a footnote of that in their lifetime.”

The background to this free love party is the spectre of the rise of the Nazis. Appearances from an angry, threatening Brownshirt (Lachlan Smith) keep this in our mind. We know, and Brecht and his collaborators gradually realise, that their party isn’t going to last much longer. Perhaps that knowledge led them to take more risks and push more boundaries?

I will certainly be looking out for Nuworks visiting the UK again. It was a gripping story told by a talented ensemble with passion. It was great that the music was original and live and there were certainly some stand out songs for me. As I said at the start – wow!

Reviewed by Patrick Harrington

#EdFringe2018 #EdFringe #IntoTheUnknown

five-stars

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