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Theatre Review: The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui ****

Joy Watters reviews a touring production with beautifully polished performances.

Dundee Rep’s ensemble struts into the community with Bertolt Brecht’s 1941 satire, The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui. Subtitled A Parable Play, it is an allegory of the 1930s rise to power of Hitler, told through the tale of a fictional Chicago mobster, wiping out the opposition in the cauliflower market.

Touring small venues, the action is up close and personal, and director Joe Douglas draws the best from his nine-strong ensemble. Suited and booted with sharp haircuts, they make the playing area their own, spilling into the surrounding audience.

Douglas has just the right touch for the work’s weaving together of warning and ridicule which chronicles the growth of Ui’s takeover as allies become enemies. Translated by George Tabori and revised by Alistair Beaton, there is the minimum of staging with lighting (Ian Dow) which casts ominous shadows on dark deeds.

The cast take on a host of roles, each performance beautifully polished. Irene Macdougall is outstanding as mayor Dogsborough (the character parallels German president Hindenburg). Her eyes tell it all, first conveying how flattery can win over the once celebrated military man giving way to the realisation that he has been played good and proper.

Martin McBride, as the Master of Ceremonies and others, also has that ability to connect with the audience. It is a triumph for the whole ensemble, whether suggesting menace or introducing humour, such as Billy Mack’s affected old actor giving lessons on speech and movement to Ui.

As Ui, Brian James O’Sullivan shows the character’s rise, cajoling and threatening by turns, reaching a chilling crescendo.

Touring until June 17.

Tags: theatre

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