THE GOOD SOUL OF SZECHUAN

The Jewish Chronicle - - ARTS&BOOKS -

The Young Vic, Lon­don SE1

BER­TOLT BRECHT wrote from the point of view that peo­ple could only be good un­der so­cial­ism — the cap­i­tal­ist al­ter­na­tive pan­dered to greed. Which is why the three gods in his play find it so dif­fi­cult to find a wor­thy per­son in all of Szechuan. “If enough good peo­ple are found who live moral lives, the world can stay as it is,” says one of the di­vini­ties. In an aw­ful co­in­ci­dence, they are look­ing in the place where the real-life de­struc­tion of China’s earth­quake is cur­rently be­ing played out. It would seem the play’s gods are much more mer­ci­ful than the real world’s. They at least bend over back­wards to find their good soul in the form of Jane Hor­rocks’s en­dear­ing Shen Te, a re­luc­tant hooker with a heart of gold.

Part of this evening’s suc­cess is down to Miriam Buether’s strange de­sign which clads the au­di­to­rium in ply­wood pan­elling, and di­rects the au­di­ence to their seats via a fac­tory where ex­ploited work­ers carry heavy sacks. But what saves Brecht from be­ing dated is that Richard Jones’s pro­duc­tion and David Har­rower’strans­la­tion­movetheau­thor into a mod­ern con­text where so­cial­ism need not be the im­plied panacea to make the point about cap­i­tal­ism’s down­side. ( Tel: 020 7922 2922)

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