The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui (review)

Henry Goodman as Arturo Ui

Henry Goodman as Arturo Ui

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IT’S not often that I’m rendered speechless (as friends and colleagues will attest) but there are occasions when a particularly powerful performance or production has the ability to completely floor me.

I was left so traumatised by a scene in The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui, Brecht’s polemic against tyranny, that I momentarily gasped before involuntarily welling up with tears. I left Chichester’s Minerva Theatre profoundly disturbed.

I hadn’t had the pleasure of seeing the drama before and didn’t know what to expect. What I saw was a career-best performance by Henry Goodman in the title role and astounding performances from a superb supporting cast.

It starts in a Chicago speakeasy with talented cast members doubling as a jazz band (and great they are too).

Before long we are immersed in a story about a shmuck of a gangster, a not too wise “wise guy” with ambitions. He’s a nothing, a squirt of a man who is frightened of his own shadow, but through a very clever story, it soon becomes clear that what we’re actually watching is a story about the rise of Hitler and Nazism.

Goodman, who is Jewish, physically contorts his body to inhabit a man who must be utterly repugnant to him, to create Arturo Ui, the monster. He’s stooped, with his jaw jutting out - a caricature of the greasy haired little dictator who rose from obscurity to bring a reign of terror to the western world.

It is a shocking and thoroughly absorbing portrayal made more powerful by a rich seam of black comedy that runs throughout.

Director Jonathan Church delivers a visually stunning production that packs a powerful punch.

Goodman ‘s henchmen are memorable. Michael Feast’s Ernesto Roma and Joe McGann as Giri are old school Mafiosi with a side-line in duplicity. William Gaunt’s weak-willed statesman, Dogsborough, and Alex Giannini, Mark Carlisle and Rolf Saxon as the equally corrupt Butcher, Bowl and Clark play their parts with menace and conviction.

The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui will leave a profound impression and I defy anyone not to be moved by its heart-stopping finale.

Running until July 28. For tickets call the box office 01243 781312 or go online www.cft.org.uk

ANNE COX