‘The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui’ (originally called ‘Ui’) is an allegory (metaphor) written by the Christian Marxist, Bertolt Brecht in 1941-2, just after he escaped to America from Norway as the Nazis’ invaded. Written in the style of a Renaissance historian, the play was translated from German into English by George Tabori.
Like ‘Animal Farm’ there is a dark underlying story, this too is about politics and the rise of a madman, Adolf Hitler and his Nazi Party prior to World War II. In his writings, Brecht referred to Hitler as ‘the housepainter’ (der Anstreicher) so he was sought by the Nazis supporters. As a result, Brecht found that no one in America would risk mounting such a production; besides America was still neutral at that time.
Revised by Alistair Beaton the play was eventually performed in Stuttgart, Germany in November 1958 and in then English in 1961. This production has been skilfully brought up to date to make it more acceptable by a younger and more modern audience.
This powerful, energy packed and disturbing adult play can be seen at the new Hayman Theatre, building 302; turn off Manning Road into the Curtin University Campus, Bentley.
The two-and-a-half-hour play commences at 7.00 pm each evening from Tuesday 21st until Saturday 25th May.
The scene: A dark alley in the mobster area of Chicago, 1930s. However, in Brecht’s mind Chicago was Germany and Cicero represented Austria.
The set: was amazing. Designed by Chloe Pallister and Cameron Norton the high walls across the wings were black and covered in graffiti. Several flaps in the walls opened at various levels, to act as windows or work surfaces. A sliding metal grid protected the front door leading into a night club.
A TV monitor was mounted on the top of each wall, showing the interior of the club or acting as a source of information for the audience. The rear wall was of a huge symbolic contemporary painting of a cauliflower. The white cauliflower’s florets acted as a screen for the A/V projection. The AV Design by John Congear was unrivalled; he must have spent hours researching appropriate clips of videos. Cleverly, the projector was masked to ensure the projected picture was a perfect fit for the cauliflower backdrop.
The very many unusual Properties were sourced by Tina Al Eidani.
David Cooper’s Lighting Design covered scenes of frantic rap dancing with lights flashing, through to the hushed and creepy death scenes when Sound Designer John Coughlin brought in a chilling wind effect, the lights would go moonlight blue and those just murdered would slowly rise, exiting like zombies.
Stage Manager, Gabriella Munro and her Deputy SM Shelby McKenzie had full control of the actors who carried out the scene changes; this ensured that the whole play kept up its cracking pace.
The mammoth production was perfectly managed by Stephen Carr.
The story is written on two levels, a semi-comical, light-hearted look at Chicago mobsters (the Fascists) and the dark evil attitudes and ideals of Arturo (Hitler). The Nazi characters portrayed by each player is shown in brackets along with the actor’s name.
It is late at night in the rough part of town. Club doorman (Nelson Fannon) spruiks to the passing crowds. The Gangsters are around. Roma (Malek Domkoc – Röhm), Dockdaisy (Jasmine Valentini), Giri (Alex Comstock – Göring), Givola (Taylor ‘Mutta’ Beilby – Goebbels) and Greenwool (Christian Dichiera) arrive. The Club welcomes them in and the doors close.
In the street is Arturo Ui (Tim Lorian based on Adolf Hitler – amazing) and his business friend, Dogsborough (Sebastian Boyd – von Hindenburg) are approached by the female leaders of the local Cauliflower Trust (subsidized Prussian landowners). They are – in mauve, the Clerk (Clodagh Berryman – von Papen), in pink, Butcher (Kailea Porter) and Mrs Bowl (Emily Bell). It seems a new set of entrepreneurs, the Vegetable dealers (middleclass businessmen) led by Fish (Bryan Chin – Dutch Communist, van der Lubbe) and Crocket (Jack Blumer) are moving into the Cauliflower area. Can Arturo help these ladies?
Fish is arrested and put in front of a corrupt Judge (Thomas Bach). Fish’s Counsel for Defence (Emily Bell) tries to save him, but within seconds of recognising Arturo, he is dead along with a fellow worker (Sacha Emeljanow).
Arturo discovers that he has been doublecrossed by a politician – Dullfoot (Sebastian Boyd – Chancellor of Austria) so he has him assassinated. His poor wife, Betty Dullfoot (Kyra Belford-Thomas – brilliant) hopes for a quiet funeral, only to find Arturo’s mob there. The troubles begin.
*’Dock Aid scandal’ is based on the 1933 Eastern Aid scandal when Germany sent a huge amount of financial help to East Prussia, where it was then wasted by Dogsborough (Sebastian Boyd – von Hindenburg) and Dullfoot (Sebastian Boyd – Chancellor of Austria).
* The play’s ‘warehouse fire’ mirrors the burning of the Reichstag (Germany’s Parliament)
With many shows to her name, Kiri Siva as Costume Designer has again excelled. You can see the huge amount of work that Kiri along with her Costume Assistants Jane Tero and Pauline Rosman have spent lovingly constructing the garments.
Choreographer Jade Woodhouse had several spontaneous bursts of dancing performed at a breath-taking pace. With an empty stage, even before the first bar of the music had ended, the cast many of whom would be standing or sitting around would leap into position and the dancing would instantly commence. Some of the cast were ‘dancing naturals’, but everyone had to join in at some point – even the least likely members – who received a massive cheer at their unexpected flawless performances.
The gruesome Special Effects Makeup was convincingly applied by Tiahna McBride.
Over the years, the part of Arturo Ui has also been played by Griff Rhys Jones, Hugo Weaving and even Al Pacino.
The play has many salutes to Shakespeare throughout. Just as ‘Midsummer Night’s Eve’ has a comical tale within the story, the audience laughed as Arturo employed a Shakespearean acting coach (Nelson Fannon – fantastic) to train him how to project and carry himself. At times the script had rhyming couplets, then there was a repeat of the ghostly visits of Macbeth’s victims. The play ended with a meaningful monologue by Dunsborough’s nephew (Calum Christie) advising the audience to beware tricksters.
The Direction by Leah Mercer, who was assisted by Rebecca Penn, was magnificent. The cast were charged up and gave every ounce of strength to the show. Even though the performance was 150-minutes long, with most of the cast on stage throughout, no one flagged nor did the pace faulter.
Despite the length of this play, thanks to the singing, dancing, fights and wonderful strong characters, the time flew by. I am sure that many of the audience would think of the story had been a simple gangster play and would still have loved it. Those who knew the hidden meanings had them presented clearly by a superb cast. Very clever and admirable.
Great acting from this student cast and a top-class production.