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Brecht - all shook up

PUBLISHED: 16:00 04 June 2008 | UPDATED: 17:16 16 August 2010

GIMMICK: Factory workers in The Good Soul of Szechuan

GIMMICK: Factory workers in The Good Soul of Szechuan

EVEN though Brecht has been on the A Level syllabus for over 10 years, I didn t expect the Young Vic s homage to the political practitioner to be quite so academic, writes Kate Mead.

EVEN though Brecht has been on the A Level syllabus for over 10 years, I didn't expect the Young Vic's homage to the political practitioner to be quite so academic, writes Kate Mead.

A new translation of Brecht's The Good Person [Soul] of Szechuan by David Harrower and directed by Richard Jones promised to be a fresh take on a fable where nice people fail and nasty people succeed.

But playing lip service to his cabaret style of story-telling, with the company making an effort to sing off key and gimmicks that would not look out of place in a school review, Bertie fans would be disappointed.

Jane Horrocks was impressive however as Shen Te, a kind-hearted prostitute who offers shelter to three Gods who are on a mission to find good people left on earth.

They reward her with money so that she can start her own business - a tobacco shop - but soon finds her livelihood in danger when everyone wants to take advantage of her good fortune.

The only way out of her situation is to disguise herself as her hard-hearted "cousin" Shui Ta who takes care of business.

Horrocks's gentle sympathy with her character made her easily accessible and some good performances were also put in by John Marquez as the slippery love interest Yang Sun and Adam Gillen as Wang.

But the massive cast - why not do as Brecht would and double up roles? - made those strong performances feel like a piece of driftwood in a sea of mediocrity.

The wasteful size of the cast was exacerbated by a simply pointless introduction of factory workers lugging bags of cement powder about - a theme that was never even referred to ever again.

And despite every effort to tick the Brechtian boxes by narrowing the gap between the actors and audience, the 'ensemble' feel was never achieved.

Perhaps this was not so much a directional flaw but merely the fact that having a 'name' like Horrocks as the lead created an atmosphere that was impossible to be truly ensemble.

In fact, the mixed up effort had me feeling like I had one foot on the train and another on the platform.

Despite an interesting setting and some engrossing performances, these were detracted by silly gimmicks and pointless effects.

Students take note, for a lesson in how NOT to do Brecht, get yourselves to the Young Vic.

* The Good Soul of Szechuan is at the Young Vic until June 28. Performances are 7.30pm Monday to Saturday with 2.30pm matinees on Saturday and Wednesday.

Tickets are from £20 and are available by calling 020 7922 2922 or go to www.youngvic.org.


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