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Brecht...and all that jazz remembered

PUBLISHED: 08:50 21 February 2012

I, Bertolt Brecht

I, Bertolt Brecht

Archant

One of the most prominent figures in the 20th century theatre, Bertolt Brecht led the way for modern political satire and alternative comedy.

The German writer is the subject a docu-drama I, Bertolt Brecht to be staged at Norwich Playhouse this week which showcases “the electricity, fun, political edge and pure entertainment” of his plays and songs, as well as the depth and emotion of his poems.

With insights gained from first hand experience of working with Brecht’s own company, the legendary Berliner Ensemble, it is the work of writer, director and producer Sue Pomeroy, one of the foremost exponents of Brecht’s work in the UK.

Brecht was born in Bavaria in 1898, dying in East Berlin in 1958.

He rose to artistic prominence during the 1920s and early 30s, but, fearing persecution, he left Germany in 1933 when Hitler took power, first moving to Denmark, then Stockholm, and finally, Helsinki where he stayed until May 1941 when he was granted a visa for the US.

Set against the turbulent times in which he lived, I, Bertolt Brecht is a theatrical drama documentary that uses Brecht’s own words, and works with his own methods. His often daring political satire is featured with hilarious scenes from The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui which ridicules Adolf Hitler and Man equals Man which takes on the military might of the Army.

Today Brecht is widely known for his attempt to develop a new approach to theatre. He tried to persuade his audiences to see the stage as a stage, actors as actors and not the traditional make-believe of the theatre.

Brecht’s plays reflected a Marxist interpretation of society and when Hitler gained power in 1933 he was forced to flee from Nazi Germany.

While living in exile he wrote anti-Nazi plays such as The Roundheads and the Peakheads and Fear and Misery of the Third Reich. This was followed by Life of Galileo and the Caucausian This new touring production gives another audience a chance to enjoy the best of Brecht’s writing with some of the iconic songs that have made him and his collaborators Kurt Weill and Hans Eisler famous throughout the world.

It is performed by a cast of actor musicians, bringing the man and his work to life and featuring evocative music of 1930s Berlin, and the jazz scene of the 40s and 50s.

Numbers such as Mack the Knife, What Keeps Mankind alive and The Alabama Song, are tunes that recording artists have been queuing up to cover from Sinatra to The Doors, David Bowie to Sting.

■ I, Bertolt Brecht, Norwich Playhouse, February 20-21, £14 (£12 cons), 01603 598598, norwichplayhouse.co.uk

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