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By Belinda Otas


Saturday/Sunday, March 9, 2008.


3 Stars


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's  adept at worming his way to our hearts.


His life mirrors some of the most notorious African tyrants, past and present; who have lied to gain the trust and heart of their citizens before turning the tables on the same people they promised to help.


Lucian Msamati is brillant 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, as well as the coffin that serves as a doorway, when one is required, inject 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.


Written by Bertolt Brecht

Translated by Ralph Manheim

Directed by David Farr

Created and starring Lucian Msamati

Designed by Ti Green

Lighting by Mike Gunning

Sound Design by Nick Manning


Cast: Lucian Msamati, Ariyon Bakare, Christopher Obi, Joseph Mydell, Jude Akuwudike, Nyasha Hatendi, Susan salmon, Emmanuel Ighadaro, Adrian Black, Mohammed Arthur Turay and Isaac Ssebandeke.


The Resistible Rise Of Arturo Ui  is currently showing at the Lyric Hammersmith, London, England, until March 15, 2008.


For More information, visit: www.lyric.co.uk

Tel: 0871 22 117 29


Belinda Otas is a London-based freelance journalist and The New Black Magazine's features and theatre editor. She can be reached at belindaotas@thenewblackmagazine.com


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