This is Expressionist Brecht: white faces daubed with primary-coloured geometries, crazily angled cityscape flats and a lot of bellowing in a very small space. In his second play, dating from 1922 (shortly after the failed Spartacist uprisings in Germany), Brecht not only cruelly caricatures the capitalist classes (in the form of the Balicke armaments family) and the amoral yellow press with whom they were hand in glove, but fingers those ordinary people whose lack of commitment stymied the revolts. His protagonist Andreas Kragler returns from four years in the war in Africa, in which he was presumed dead, in time to see his beloved Anna Balicke's engagement to another arms tycoon, Friedrich Murk; in the battle of wills, loyalties and booze which follows, it's Anna's final pledge of herself to Andi which diverts him from the head of a mob marching on the newspaper offices.
The Johnson Family give their ensemble work the kind of dedication whose lack the author decries, but the buffeting that their in-your-face production gives a White Bear audience may well produce the wrong kind of alienation. When they marry their communal strengths with a sensitivity to the external circumstances of their productions, they'll really be cooking with gas.
Written for City Limits magazine.
Copyright © Ian Shuttleworth; all rights reserved.
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