Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui

Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui
"The play is not so much an attack on
Hitler, but rather upon the
complacency of the people who were
able to resist him, but didn't.“ Brecht
Allegory/ parable/ satire
• Brecht wrote the play in 1941, to allegorically reflect the rise of the
Nazi’s in Germany (he had already fled the country at this point)
and was written to be produced in America.
• The play is set in Chicago in the 1920s, but parallels the rise of the
Nazi parties in the 1930s in Germany (each of the 15 scenes in the
play are based on an actual event in 1930s Germany)
• Most of the characters also match a real participant in the events of
Nazi’s rise to power and annexation of Austria (see hand out)
• As it somewhat makes a comedy out of a serious issue, its genre
can be called satire.
Why Gangsters?
• Brecht intended the play to be put on in the United States- would speak to
• Brecht also felt the Nazi’s bullied their way into power, used intimidation
and were motived by greed. He had previously described them as being a
‘violent gang’. The ‘capitalist gangsters’ used violence and intimidation to
achieve aims fuelled by greed- so did Hitler
• The Gangster setting also makes some of the social comment universal- It
could be about any dictatorship.
• Henry Goodman- ‘Brecht wrote this to warn the Americans: fascism could
happen in your country. You love gangsters. You love murderers. You love
film stars. You love celebrity. How can I convince you that in your culture
such a terrible thing could happen? By taking your gangsters, your
Capones, and showing you how these people can get away with terrible
things because there’s corruption all around. That’s why he chooses
Chicago. It’s corrupt.’
Becoming Ui
Playwright’s intention
• The play is intended to be both comic and sinister- the skill of the actors is
to play comic caricatures of gangsters- but to still then become
increasingly sinister.
• Brecht- ‘ … a parable play, written with the aim of destroying the usual disastrous respect which we
feel for great murderers.’
• This reflects where Brecht feels Germany went wrong, they were too soft
in dealing with Hitler because he didn’t seem a threat- but then became a
very sinister threat!
• Brecht- “Germany was not ready to laugh at Hitler” (on why he had never
staged the play) “If the collapse of Hitler's enterprises is no evidence that
he was a half-wit, neither is their scope any guarantee that he was a great
• People should leave the play seeing that Hitler’s rise was preventable
(resistible), but that no one took the threat seriously enough.
Mirroring reality
• Obviously style is Brechtian, but looking at
performance you should focus on the physicality
(Gestus/ Gestic action)
• Certainly Brecht felt this way too, as when he wrote the
script he put 27 images into it, showing how he felt the
actors should stand.
• Physically watch Henry Goodman’s performance, as he
turns from Al Capone into Hitler. Its all in the gestures. I
imagine in performance this is the sort of thing that
will be written about in your exam.
Themes/ issues
• People allowing corruption or violence to
• Dictatorships are no better than small time
• According to Henry Goodman “Trust is central
to the play”, so trust is a theme, I guess
Hitler/ Ui
• Ui starts the play as
Somewhat of a hapless
Gangster, with little class
And stereotypical
As with Hitler is real life, he learns how to speak
and walk and sit like a great leader- in this scene the
character changes and suddenly becomes more
Ernesto Roma/
Ernst Rohm
• Rohm was leader of the SA, the Nazi private
militia (in the same way Roma becomes chief of
Police) When
Hitler gained power, he wanted the SA to be given more power to
control the streets.
• Rohm was executed as part of ‘The Night Of The Long Knives’
(Roma is killed in similar fashion.
• Rohm was, allegedly looking to overthrow Hitler. He had been one
of his closet allies.
• Roma, does not like the political involvement and wants to keep
things going the old way- Ui becomes convinced he is going to try
and overthrow him, so has him killed.
Giri and Givola
• Giri represents Herman Guering, who was leader of the secret
police (Gestapo) and aggressively levered his way to being
Hitler’s successor (at the time the play was written). Giri is the
most violent of Ui’s followers. ‘The coolest killer in chicago
• Givola represents Josef Goebbels, who was Hitler’s minister
for propaganda and a vehement anti- semite. The public’s
perception of Hitler… Givola is constantly giving advice to Ui
on how to portray himself- ‘ He lubricates the lying lips with
Hindenburg/ Dogsborough
• Hindenburg was German president during the period
the play parallels.
• He was reliable and well respected German politician,
however- he was now also very old and, it is said
become senile.
• He initially tried to resist Hitler, but ended up being
blackmailed into appointing Hitler Chancellor after a
scandal with East German aid money being misspent.
• Dogsborough, an old and beaten up old man
represents this character
Arturo Ui
Cauliflower Trust
Vegetable dealers
Dock Aid scandal
Warehouse-fire trial
Junkers (or East Prussian landowners)
Petty bourgeoisie
‘Osthilfe’ (East Aid) scandal
Reichstag Fire trial
Why are you telling me this Otley
• Characters in Brecht plays are
representational- this means that when they
are played actors should not ‘become the
character’ – they should physically represent
• Try to spot how the actor physically and/ or
vocally shows these aspect of their character.
1. Ui up to the scene with the actor
2. Ui after the scene with the actor
3. Giri, Givola, Roma
4. Dogsborough and Dulfeet
5. Prologue, epilogue
• For next Tuesday’s lesson, create a presentation that
features 4 key moments for your character/
• Feature- context of the scene, acting skills (in great
detail), relationships shown in the scene, personal
response, audience reaction.
• Create this on powerpoint, work together or do 2
moments each.
Examination of a political oppression
Empty space
Scenes introduced by placard or projection
Functional rather than decorative props
Set changes observed by audience
Lights used to show action, or time passing rather than create atmosphere
Lanterns and operators in view of audience
Music used to comment on or juxtapose action
Songs used to tell story
Each scene and song able to stand alone and deliver their own message
Scenes inform each other but do not grow from one another
Each scene and song displays human nature rather than character development
The actor as a storyteller
Re-examination of the familiar through rehearsal – use of past tense, speaking in
third person, vocalising stage directions and swapping roles to evaluate characters
helped distance actors from the emotions of the characters and continue to be
surprised by the decisions their characters make
Characters given titles and presented as representations
Presentational acting style; performers demonstrate rather than imitate
Narrative and circumstance as a priority over character
Address the audience
Examination of history of the past and present
Ensemble to deliver Gestus – the mimetic and gestural expression of the social
relationships prevailing between people of a given period (Neelands / Dobson.
2000: 106)

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