The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui

Tue 7th – Sat 11th November 2017

reviews

Clare Cavenagh

at 08:06 on 9th Nov 2017

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The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui is a very unusual play - it's a kind of grand Shakespearian noir, here translated into verse with the odd rhyming couplet, which charts the rise of someone who looks pretty familiar in the context of vegetable sales in some kind of heightened, 1930s America. The ADC production of this play aims to up the stylish, Boardwalk Empire-style aspects of the work, and is moderately successful. It's an interesting play, and well worth watching, and this production of it is reliable, if a little underwhelming.

The set design of the play, by Shali Reddy and Stella Swain, is simple and effective - initially the audience is greeted by a white screen and a bare stage, but the space turns out to have many more possibilities. A panel which can divide the stage into two separate spaces descends from the flies when needed, and the white screen can be lifted to reveal a great set depicting the docks - the scene of much of the action and controversy. With the addition of a few chairs, dragged around by the cast, the simple space can represent the many different locations of the play. Use of projected video was also nice, although sometimes it felt as though this video was pushing the 'deeper meaning' of the Resistible Rise a little hard.

However attractive it is, the noir style and setting of this play felt a little underutilised. Although at times it felt atmospheric, at times it also felt like it was only half-committed to, like a horror film with the lenses left off accidentally. One scene where this certainly did work, was the courtroom sentencing of Fish (Jessica Murdoch). The jeering crowd which formed at the base of the courtroom steps was at times genuinely chilling.

There were some great performances too. Clemi Collett as Roma gave a performance full of huge facial expression and wide-legged walks which was very compelling to watch. The show was unquestionably stolen by Chloe Booyens doubling as Dockdaisy and Betty. As the former, her rote-learned, southern-drawled lines, delivered with one hand twined through her hair, were some of the most entertaining moments of the first act. As the latter she was poised and elegant, which only made her very convincing breakdown all the more effective.

Although The Resisible Rise of Arturo Ui was certainly enjoyable, and certainly interesting, although it gathered momentum as time went on, it somehow felt a little underdone. Some of the accent work was a little unreliable (although I concede they're hard accents) some of the lines were a little fluffed (although it's the first night) and the ending came across and a little didactic (although this is at least 50% Brecht's fault). Overall though, these flaws are pretty minor, and they don't detract too much from enjoyment of the play. As is, The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui is an interesting and thought provoking performance. It feels as though it could have been a little more though.

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