Well, Brecht did mention this was to be in the grand style, and it gets off to a grand start with Leanne Best as a fairground barker introducing what could easily pass for a carnival of the animals. It’s been fascinating to watch her graduate from the Everyman to Everywoman, for each role is tackled with aplomb, particularly the merry wife turned tragic widow.
Basically, and these characters are extremely base, the rise of Hitler in Nazi Germany is in cahoots with Al Capone’s Chicago, and in case you do not know your history, or find the going hard, subtitles shunt along with each scene change. They also have a part to play in the grand finale though a voice over may have been more immediate; rhyming couplets, Shakespearian and all, can jangle rather than enhancing the punch line.
That said, the device worked well in one surreal scene, a merry-go-round with the Dullfleets paired with Ui + henchman. Mike Goodenough as Givola, a giggling psycho clad in a fur coat the size of a carpet, and Nick Cavaliere (Giri) made a grim triumvirate, with Nick Moss as Ui’s loyal sidekick, Roma. William Hoyland, whiter than white yet weaker than water as Dogsborough and Dullfleet, is hilarious as the actor called upon to coach Ui while Ian Bartholomew with his sinister clowning is amazing in a tricky title role.
The staging is as first class as the cast. The stark set, often oversized, showed off the grotesque, larger than life characters, frequently choreographed to pantomimic effect. Like a (literally) graphic novel spring to life, enhanced by the music and the use of sound, it was a performance which the audience found irresistible.