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The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui

The Playhouse, Liverpool
September 30 – October 22

Author: Bertolt Brecht, translated by Stephen Sharkey
Director: Walter Meierjohann
Producer: Everyman Playhouse / Nottingham Playhouse
Cast Includes: Ian Bartholomew, Leanne Best, Nick Moss, Nick Cavaliere, Mike Goodenough,
William Hoyland, Robin Kingsland

Running Time: 2hrs 45

Promotional advert for The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui 2011

Everyman Liverpool Playhouse official website

Historical parody can often fail on stage. However, with this production of The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui, translator Stephen Sharkey and Director Walter Meierjohann have not only ticked all of the relevant boxes that make theatre sublime, they have added a few others too and so taken the play to new heights.

The action depicts Hitler as Chicago gangster don Arturo Ui, a man intent on cornering the market in vegetables – particularly cauliflowers – and so reach a dizzying status amongst the people. Though some might take this metaphor as a belittling of historical fact, there is the underlying facet that – in a way – this is exactly what Hitler did, reaching out to the farming peasantry of Germany with promises of a greater future so as to  enhance his popularity amongst the working classes.

And so it continues, with reference after reference of the German leader’s thuggery and the bubbling, murderous ambition of those who supported him throughout the period of 1929 – 1938. Yet the pace never slows to becoming a lecture in history, thanks to Sharkey’s deftness of touch and Meierjohann’s masterful direction.

The whitened faces of each character and superb lighting underscore a dark atmosphere so that every nuance becomes enhanced. Ian Bartholomew’s Ui is the very epitome of madness, particularly during a speech that quite literally makes the hairs at the nape of the neck stand on end, whereas Leanne Best playing all of the female roles, garnishes the characteristics of both the Chicago molls and Berlin businesswomen so well it is a joy to witness. Indeed, the entire cast are at the very top of their game and so makes the whole play zip along at lightning speed.

There are some lighter moments though even these are touched by more than a hint of menace that they should even be deemed as comic in this context, and the whole production is suffused within an almost tangibly uncomfortable bubble. Yet nevertheless, the skill with which everything is pulled off is awe inspiring as an electronic reader helps keep the audience in tune with the significance of the action and massive projections squeeze yet more atmosphere into proceedings.

However, in truth, it is the play and it is the message that are the most captivating and most disturbing elements that mark this one of the finest productions to have been played out on this stage for a very long time.

Chris High

Images © Stephen Vaughan 2011

Ian Bartholomew as Arturo Ui Ian Barholomew and Leanne Best

Everyman Liverpool Playhouse official website



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“Writing gets me away for a while' from this world and into one where I, alone, can make or
break the rules as I see fit.” - Chris High 2003.
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