DramaFeaturedNorth WestReview

Fear and Misery of the Third Reich – Bombed Out Church, Liverpool

Reviewer: Amy Housley

Writer: Bertolt Brecht

Translator: John Willett

Director: Anthony Proctor

Fear and Misery of the Third Reich, written by Bertolt Brecht, premiered in Paris in 1938. It has since been regarded as one of Brecht’s most famous plays and the first of his anti-Nazi works. Anyone who has studied GCSE or A-Level drama will have an in depth knowledge of Brechtian theatre and its stylistic theatrical devices. The main one being: the audience should not feel any emotion or empathy towards the characters on stage, they should be able to clearly understand the message of the piece without being clouded or distracted by emotion. Not exactly what a lot of people hope for from the night at the theatre but the cast last night delivered Brecht’s intention remarkably.

We began the evening sat at the outside bar with the actors walking around us and chatting to the audience members. A very Brechtian device. We were then ushered into the space, where the seating is set out in a traverse style. We were asked to all gather just inside the doors. The director, Anthony Proctor, introduced himself to us all and informed us that we would all be given a different coloured card and then told that depending on what colour we had was where we would be seated. We were encouraged at the very beginning of the play that we could move freely around the space during the performance however, there was no further encouragement throughout the show which left the audience to feel as though they were unable to leave their seats. Friends and family were separated from each other and had to sit apart. The director’s intention for this was unclear and it didn’t work.

Another disappointment was the lighting and sound. There was clearly some trouble with the microphones and because the sound desk was at the end of the traverse, whenever the action was happening at that end of the theatre, I was distracted by watching the sound tech trying to fix the problem. It was hard to tell if there was also a problem with the lighting desk as it seemed to us that it was being made up on the spot. The scene was would be in darkness and then about half way through it was suddenly lit. The spotlights seemed to circle the audience, blinding us until they found their position on stage. Overall, the direction and the technology left little to be desired however, what really made this show was the cast.

There was no programme or any event information at the venue so unfortunately, I am unable to name the actors but they were the absolute hit of the show. In the twenty-four episodes that were performed last night, each of the five actors on stage were able to seamlessly transform themselves into a new character every time. They showed us a masterclass in vocal and physical performance and were extremely captivating to watch. A real stand out moment of the show is a scene where a Jewish wife informs her family and friends that she must leave for Amsterdam. The whole audience was totally silent and drawn into this beautifully performed scene and the actor in the role gave us an incredibly touching performance. Then just like that, the scene was over, the character forgotten and we were transported into the next episode. A masterclass in Brechtian performance.

Overall, aside from the technical difficulties and questionable seating choices, this production gave Brecht’s most famous play a really good go and was a masterclass in this acting style. If you want to branch out in your theatre styles then I would highly recommend this show but make sure you get the same colour card as your friends, or at least ask to swap with someone!

Reviewed on 2 September 2022

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The Reviews Hub - North West

The North West team is under the editorship of John McRoberts. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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