Sydney Theatre Company and UBS present
The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui
Written by Bertolt Brecht
Director Kip Williams
“Arturo Ui is a small-time gangster with a lust for power. In a city shaken by economic crisis and undermined by corruption, Ui keeps rising and rising until he reaches the very top. When he gets there, he won’t be breaking the law, he’ll be making it.
The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui partially presents in an almost graphic novel framework. Clever work with digital media using screens of text as ‘context locators’ and clever cinematography (by Justine Kerrigan) continually allows the audience close-ups of the cast members while the more traditional stage craft takes place.
Arturo (Hugo Weaving) is a small time crook with big-time dreams; rat-cunning rather than intelligent. Arturo’s grubby and transactional streetwise politics takes him from brute to revered politician in about the same time it took for a strange man with a funny little mustache to become the Fuhrer (Brecht wrote The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui in 1941 as a cultural sign-post of Hitler’s opportunistic use of economic hardship ... as well as his use of greed, corruption, the take-over of labour unions, the institution of violence, blackmail, imprisonment, and other coercive methods to maintain his power, once gained.)
Hugo Weaving is fabulous as Arturo, depicting Arturo taking acting lessons to learn the language, garb and oratory proficiency of a great man, and we follow Arturo and his lackeys transforming from evil and violent gutter criminals to evil and violent white collar criminals, albeit with improved diction, an appreciation of art, better real estate and flash clothes.
Tom Wright’s tweaking of lines to make the work more directly relevant to Sydney-siders has worked well. We can almost see the landmark trajectory of this small time crook from running a protection racket over market-stall owners, to influencing board meeting outcomes, to essentially standing over a nation.
Brechtian fun and games.
A cautionary tale that unfortunately has not dated.