The set design gets your attention, so do the crates and chairs. They make you wonder if you are about to be taken on a journey that involves a sandy beach.
Well, dream on, for The Resistible Rise Of Arturo Ui, is a story of terror and oppression. It chronicles the rise of Arturo Ui, a notorious gangster, who only understands the way and language of the gun. Manipulative and full of deceit, his gang is described as ‘bloody,’ not to mention, the discord that exists between them.
Set within the context of modern Africa, this new instalment of Brecht’s satire has taken it upon itself to remind us that totalitarianism and tyranny are very much alive in our world today.
Brecht's original, written in 1941, transposed Hitler's rise to power to gangland Chicago, and this African version retains references to Chicago and Cicero. Thus, our Arturo is a son of the desert rather than a son of the Windy City.
Ui is on a mission to prove to us that power corrupts, but his grip on power will leave a long-lasting scar on his own people. He feels that he's highly misunderstood but he is adept at worming his way to our hearts.
Lucian Msamati is brilliant as Ui, his ability to be animated in this role is to be applauded, as he gives us a man who is at war not only with the outside world but within himself.
There were moments of laughter to ease the tension built up by the different actions of this play; where everyman is a law to himself, especially Arturo Ui.
While I am far from being impressed with the decision to announce each scene before it starts; I commend Ti Green for the conceptualised stage. In addition, the ingenious use of crates as chairs and the coffin that serves as a doorway when one is required; injects some zest to the production. The political speech delivered by Ui at the end is well placed, because it reminds me of the familiar rhetoric of dictators.
Though, Bertolt Brecht did not live to see the first production of his play, but even, he would agree that this story deserves to be told from an African viewpoint. Moreover, this is a metaphor for the different conflicts and struggles going on in the four corners of the world.
Image: Simon Kane