The Daily Telegraph
March 29, 2018
In the STC’s new production of Bertolt Brecht’s The Resistible Rise Of Arturo Ui, onstage filming brings the actors so close you can pretty much see the pores of their skin.
In the case of Hugo Weaving, you can watch the sweat pouring off him in streams, so visceral is his performance as Ui, the opportunistic, venal gangster who will happily top anyone who hinders his ruthless campaign to attain power and influence.
It’s thrilling to be that close to a formidable actor in full flight, wispy hair matted with sweat, eyes narrowing and crinkling with cunning, jaws grinding with menace.
Being interviewed about the play a week earlier, Weaving was coiled, quietly spoken, considered.
But on stage on opening night this week, Weaving was off the leash — ranting, roaring, cajoling and spitting hatred. And all in live close-up, thanks to the unobtrusive work of cinematographer Justine Kerrigan who filmed the action with such finesse of timing that the actors’ faces were projected all over the large screen at the rear of the stage just at the moments of their most extreme emotions.
The live video adds a fabulous extra dimension to the experience of theatre, and works so well because The Resistible Rise Of Arturo Ui is fast-paced and action-packed, and lends itself to the big statement. It feels a bit like the television news, where teams of camera operators chase the accused up the street outside court. It also plays up the theme of Ui as a self-styled gangster celebrity.
Brecht wrote The Resistible Rise Of Arturo Ui as a cautionary allegory on the rise of Hitler in Germany. In the STC’s production, directed by the company’s artistic director Kip Williams, the script is translated by Tom Wright and substantially altered so as to set the action in a contemporary city — a city just like Sydney, although this is never specifically mentioned in the play.
Sydney has never been a stranger to corruption, vice or gangland hits, and it seems entirely apposite to locate the opening scene — the attempted corruption of government minister Dogsborough — at a round table lunch in a Chinese restaurant.
The play’s leading role might be a hideous beast, but the play has funny moments. A hilarious performance was given by Mitchell Butel, whose several roles included the mincing theatrical director who coaches Ui in movement, much like the modern media training that burnishes the presentation of public figures.
Peter Carroll was brilliant as Dogsborough, whose resistance to Ui’s blandishments eventually crumbles in the face of Dogsborough’s own family pressures.
Colin Moody as Roma, Ui’s sinister sidekick, was great, as was Anita Hegh. It was a wonderful ensemble performance by all concerned.
One quibble: the play was a trifle long and felt a little self-indulgent in places. But if it’s stimulating, intellectual theatre you’re after, Arturo Ui is your man.
The Resistible Rise Of Arturo Ui, Roslyn Packer Theatre, Walsh Bay; until April 28, sydneytheatre.com.au