Theatre review: The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui

Brian James O'Sullivan as Arturo Ui
Brian James O'Sullivan as Arturo Ui
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Bertolt Brecht’s 1941 play The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui – a satirical allegory on the rise of Hitler – is not always the easiest of his works to stage. Brecht’s framing of the great dictator as a Chicago mobster with a special interest in the cauliflower trade can seem a shade too elaborate, his interest in the detail of his rise to power slightly obsessive.

The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui ****

Rio Centre, Newport-on-Tay

Yet to watch the show at a moment when the brutish and intolerant model of leadership seems to be gaining traction across many parts of the world is to realise that, when it comes to the detailed play-book of authoritarianism and oppression, there is nothing new under the sun; and this brisk and brilliant two-hour community touring production by Joe Douglas for Dundee Rep captures both all the showbiz style of the gangster setting – the suits, the soft hats, the songs –and the sheer pain and horror of the mounting human catastrophe that accompanies Ui’s rise to power.

Arturo Ui is a true ensemble piece, with a Rep company of nine working together brilliantly to deliver this complex show to a delighted audience, sitting around a simple hall floor. Brian James O’Sullivan turns in an outstanding performance as a strange and frightening young Ui; and with Rep stars including Irene MacDougall, Billy Mack and Barrie Hunter acting up a storm around him, the company brings this great parable to a chilling but rousing conclusion, leaving us determined to fight to the end against those leaders who demand our submission when they should be seeking our consent.

*Dundee Rep, 8-10 June, and on tour until 17 June