The Good Woman of Setzuan - Review

Bertolt Brecht's moral fable tells a complex tale of an individual goodness strugling to exist in a world of greed and heartlessness. Three gods search the Chinese province of Setzuan seeking one good person who will give them shelter. The only person prepared to do so is Shen Te, a prostitute, who seeks to leave the way of life that poverty has forced her into. The gods reward her kind act and she is able to start up a tobacco business. Greedy friends and neighbours exploit her goodness and she is forced to disguise herself as a male cousin in order to carry out the ruthless actions needed stop the exploitation.

In choosing this epic and difficult work the young cast set themselves a challenging task and, on the whole, achieved a creditable production.

The main acting burden fell upon Helen Hudson who was delightful in the title role and captured well the natural goodness required for Shen Te. In contrast she successfully managed the transformation to the businesslike and ruthless male cousin.

The large cast gave good support with several performances deserving special mention. Sophie Carr-Gomm, Christelle McCracken and David Gandey were particularly strong and assured in their portrayals and I enjoyed very much the engaging humour that Arthur Adaope found in the role of the Policeman. However, in some cases, greater care needed to be taken with diction, as lines were lost through being hurried or voices dropped. Hopefully Director, Nick Beeby, picked up on this during the run and worked on it.

The least successful aspect of the production, I felt, was the songs. Brecht's text is always difficult, often strident and the singing, in most cases, lacked the necessary power and emotion. The most successful was the one delivered by David Gandey with emphasis provided by the stamping of the foot.

Brecht, ever the advocate for ensemble work, would have been pleased with this production. For in addition to acting many of the players also provided the musical accompaniment and built the charming set.

Barrie Jerram