Review: FEAR AND MISERY OF THE THIRD REICH REVIEW – BRECHT'S CHILLING VISION OF NAZISM by Michael Billington in The Guardian
Brecht wrote this collection of short plays about Nazi Germany between 1935 and 1938, when he was in exile. Phil Willmott, using the John Willett translation, has omitted some of the 24 pieces that make up the sequence but, as director, has fashioned a chilling evening that reinforces Brecht’s point that nazism was not simply a force of nature but a political movement that could have been opposed.
The plays are linked by a narrator, music and some astute cross-casting. But the power of the work rests heavily on three substantial pieces. In The Jewish Wife, last revived by Katie Mitchell at the Young Vic in 2007, Clara Francis hauntingly plays the eponymous heroine who, in order to protect her gentile husband, prepares to leave home under the pretence of taking a brief holiday. There is also a macabre wit to the superb scene in which a husband and wife (Willmott himself and Francis) live in fear of being denounced by their son, a member of the Hitler Youth movement, over incautiously critical remarks about the regime. In Judicial Process, Brecht offers a withering account of the contortions a judge has to go through as he prepares to try a case involving an attack on a Jewish jeweller.
Brecht is often thought to be arid, preachy and simplistic. As these plays prove, he was lively, ironic and complex. Inevitably, some scenes work better than others but, taken together, they offer a memorable montage of life in Nazi Germany matched only, in my experience, by Hans Fallada’s Alone in Berlin. Like that fine novel, they show that opposition, however unavailing, was possible.
At the Union theatre, London, until 30 January.
The Union Theatre present the Phil Willmott Company in
The U.K. Professional première of
FEAR AND MISERY OF THE THIRD REICH
By Bertolt Brecht | Translated by John Willett
6th - 30th JANUARY 2016
Tuesday - Saturday @ 7.30pm | Sunday @ 2.30pm
Tickets: £20 (Concessions £17)
How did it happen? Could it happen to us?
Like us they were a highly advanced, civilised country, gilded with fine classical music, literature and philosophical thinking yet in a few short war-scarred years Hitler plunged the German middle classes into a dog eat dog hell of betrayal, paranoia and terrifying violence.
Who was compliant, who was an innocent victim?
This powerful, tragic and surprisingly funny play by Germany's most influential playwright shows people just like us, facing a tide of seemingly unstoppable evil.
Brecht asks us to consider how we'd react if (or when) fanaticism were to unexpectedly grip our cosy world.
In an interlinked series of snap shots from Hitler's Germany children inform on parents, justice becomes a joke, old loyalties mean nothing and mere survival demands ruthless cunning.
Writing at the heart of his observational and satirical powers Brecht's play uses naturalism, pitch black comedy and symbolism to gently chart the slow, insidious stranglehold Nazism exerted over the ordinary people of Germany.