Bartolt Brecht  


A Good Woman of Setzuan by Bertolt Brecht

Dates and Venue 29 June - 24 July, Wed/Thur/Sat/Sun @8pm | Sun Yat Sen Garden, 578 Carrall Street, Vancouver

Reviewer Ed Farolan

I found this quite a unique presentation, a play done in Vancouver's "secret garden". Very appropriate indeed, as it dealt with a Chinese theme. Brecht’s musical parable reflects the anti-capitalist socialist society, almost propagandistic, if not totally propagandistic, of the Communist Party under Stalin in the middle of the 20th century, that period referred to as the Cold War between the Soviet Union and the Western World.

This particular play focuses on the struggle to live a moral life in a society corrupted by greed and selfishness, facets of the laissez-faire capitalism and bourgeoisie Marx fought against. Even Brecht's style goes against modern western traditional theatre where he breaks the fourth wall and in Ancient Greek and also Shakesperean tradition, the actors speak to the audience.

In the programme notes, the company has drawn from several translations of Brecht’s original German tale, and in the production, an original musical score and choreography performed live by a multi-talented cast drew warm applauses and a standing ovation from an audience of 25, half-house, one would say, as the venue only seated 50, which was quite good for a mid-week presentation. I'm sure the play will draw full houses this coming weekend.

I found the play too loud for a supposedly intimate stage, but aren't Germans loud especially during Octoberfest? I felt that this loudness was justified, as Brecht wanted to purposely go anti-theatre, almost in the style of Antonin Artaud's Theatre of Cruelty. I also found the songs disturbing, almost, if not out-of-tune, but doesn't this again reflect the Beijing Opera and Chinese music's atonality?

Finally, I would say that this was indeed a talented cast. Special kudos to the "good woman" herself, Tallulah Winkelman, who played two distinct roles near perfection. And naturally to director David Newham who researched and studied Brecht diligently to come up with this successful production.

© 2011 Ed Farolan