StageScan Pick: Fear and Misery of The Third Reich

The first show to really stand out for us in 2016 is Fear and Misery of The Third Reich at the Union Theatre, which achieved a reassuring four-star consensus among four pro reviewers.

Michael Coveney (What’s on Stage) said “Brecht writes brilliantly” praising a “fascinating piece” in which “the best of the sketches are outstanding models of skilful, slippery writing and dramatic pressure”. Paul Vale (The Stage) noted “a naturalistic, often comic style” and Michael Billington (The Guardian) said: “Brecht is often thought to be arid, preachy and simplistic. As these plays prove, he was lively, ironic and complex.”

Coveney, offering “kudos to Phil Willmott” noted his choice of a “fine translation”. Billington felt the director “has fashioned a chilling evening” and Vale praised the re-ordering of selected pieces into “a well-balanced production… highlighting a deepening sense of terror without stifling the power of each individual scene”.

While Coveney found “the overall aesthetic rudimentary” Vale enjoyed “chaotic set design” which “mirrors the uncertainty of the period” adding “the Hitler masks are a touch of genius”.

He also praised “a talented, cohesive ensemble” who “capture the subtleties of humour and pathos in each scene”. Billington enjoyed “some astute cross-casting”.

There was general praise for Clara Francis, and Billington felt she played The Jewish Wife “hauntingly”. Coveney enjoyed Phil Willmott’s own “panicky tangle” as a judge, and Billington thought their shared scene as paranoid parents “superb” observing “macabre wit”. Vale also highlighted a “frankly terrifying” Felix Mathur and the “remarkable focus and urgency” of Joe Dowling’s rhyming narration.

Billington summed up “a memorable montage of life in Nazi Germany” showing “that opposition, however unavailing, was possible”. Coveney, despite some quibbles, hailed “a salutary reminder of Brecht’s power and influence”. Vale, who found the production ‘”resonant” said: “Brecht’s words ring out like a warning from history that couldn’t be more prescient in today’s political climate”.

We hope you’ve enjoyed our new-style update.

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