That Bastard Brecht (4 stars)

This article is from 2019

That Bastard Brecht

credit: Geoff Smith

Overdue take down for theatre legend

Calling Brecht a bastard is too vague: he was a womaniser who exploited his co-workers, insisted that Marx was his ideal audience, paraded his genius around Berlin and ultimately defined theatricality for the twentieth century. His influence has been so great that even in the twenty-first century, Scottish directors use a diluted version of his 'alienation-effect' and NuWorks are having a go at the master using his theatrical tools.

A cabaret-inflected live band, lively choreography and direct address to the audience: the features of Brechtian style are arrayed against Brecht's personal and business dealings. This is both the show's strength and minor curse: energetic and immediate, it gets across the polemical message while retaining characterisation and intimacy, but it also obscures the darker themes of male exploitation of women and the rise of Nazism beneath an atmosphere of fun. Yet ultimately, the message is delivered and, while the father of modern dramaturgy is still respected for his achievements, his bastardy is condemned.

The ensemble are superb, the music appropriately jazzy and wild - with occasional forays into steamier numbers - and the Weimar Republic's mixture of political paranoia and aesthetic hedonism is captured in song and scripted scene. Brecht is a sleazy manipulator, taking Elizabeth Hauptmann's work and belief in free love, falling out with Kurt Weill and railing against the rise of Hitler.

Covering Brecht's period in Germany, before he fled the Nazis, That Bastard Brecht perfectly achieves its aims in reinterpreting his influence and recognising how his personal failures compromise his legacy. It won't stop Scottish directors breaking the fourth wall and thinking that they are Brechtian, however, but it might emphasise how, predictably, behind every great man, there are a bunch of women who have been abused.

Paradise @ St Augustines, until 20 Aug, 5pm, £15 (£10).

That Bastard Brecht

  • 4 stars

Nuworks: Theatre Made in Australia That Bastard Brecht reverberates with contemporary relevance: the exploitation of women as artists throughout time, the withholding of recognition and financial reward. This is Brecht’s story told through the lens of Elizabeth Hauptmann. Unlike victims of today, Hauptmann, Grete Steffin…