Brecht is not, in my opinion, a man of great subtlety. The
Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui does exactly what it says on the tin, chronicling
the rise of a Chicago Mob Boss wanting to control the trade of cabbages in and
out of the city. This loose cover for parodying the rise of Hitler and all his
chums works well, giving the reader or audience some very palpable food for
thought with their somewhat marginal entertainment. In the course of the play,
obviously written to be staged by Brecht and in his style, we are introduced to
each new atrocity and its consequences in a rather darkly unpleasant manner.
Only the early part of his rise in Germany is covered, and by the final scene
we are left with an ever more powerful fruit and veg magnate, now hatching
plans to take over American grocery by force.
This is not a play for the faint-hearted. It’s full of sly
references (an not so sly ones) to the Hitler regime and unless you are
familiar with his early activities (pre Poland and Concentration camps) much of
the quality is lost. As a piece of brectian theatre it is one of his most
seminal pieces. There is nothing quite so political in his repertoire, even if
his other works make better pieces of theatre. One piece of advice: The text is
not suitable for anything below degree level. And when there are other, better-researched
and more popular works of Brecht out there (Mother Courage, The Caucasion Chalk
Circle) this one need only be used as a comparison.