about the impact or otherwise of Brecht’s philosophy is far
outweighed at the Playhouse where the foremost appeal is provided by
skilful direction and stimulating acting.
Brecht was a propagandist rather than a dramatist, a tract
writer rather than an inventor of stage situations but all that can be
forgotten when watching “The Good Woman of Setzuan” as staged so
brilliantly by Colin George and as played so dominatingly by Anne
Stallybrass. These two
features surpass any “wordy” discussions.
True Brecht found
his ideas in the age-old humanities, as, indeed, did Marx, but for me
he never reveals that sense of creative impact as shown, for example,
by Wesker in “Chips in Everything” or by Behan in “The
Hostage”. It is
all-round stage technique in set-building by Charles Angus and
lighting by Bry Fergusion, plus perfect player-direction, which pull
the piece through at the Playhouse and make it memorable.
interpolation of rear projection of photographic stills is completely
overwhelmed by the rich and warm performance by Anne Stallybrass as
Other players who
are notable and who obviously refuse to be weighed down by any sense
of heavy preaching are Michael Warchus, as the airman, introducing a
really refreshing note more akin to the theatre than to the political
platform, and Roger Rowland, as the water seller, adding a further
touch of liveliness.
players are well in character, particularly the little boy as a street
urchin, some perhaps too much so in Brechtian aspect, and the music by
Gilbert Kennedy, the theatre’s own composer, provides a
well-balanced atmosphere. Whether
all this most laudable effort is worthwhile remains a matter of highly
personal opinion, but it does, at least show that Colin George,
Geoffrey Ost, and all concerned with them, are capable of successfully
tackling anything on a stage, even a tract.
The Stage and Television Today
3 October 1963