Review: The Good Soul of Szechuan

The Good Soul of Szechuan by Bertolt Brecht, at the Corpus Playrooms, Cambridge.
Director: Toby Jones
Music: Joe Taylor

This student production was performed with the audience seated on two sides of a small L-shaped studio with two stage entrances along the outer aisles of the auditorium. One of the aisles was a dead end, an awkward feature of the theatre’s layout, yet the the Brechtian advantages of this potential obstacle were exploited by director Toby Jones, who permitted actors waiting there to come out of character, sit down and watch the action or change costume in full view of the audience.

The cast, in full white face make-up adorned with cartoonish details, did a fantastic job carrying the 3-hour political parable with great energy, humour and passion. Each role was attacked as if it was the main character, milked for all the comedy and interest it had.

The stark set, featuring only a small scaffold structure and the minimum number of chairs and tables, and the original score by Joe Taylor, to which the production owed several of its stand-out moments, created a wonderful underground cabaret atmosphere that reminded you how politically avant-garde the play must have been when it was first performed. And the three fantastically posh gods kitted out in white tie cemented the play’s connection to the present day, where its message of social injustice is particularly relevant in a city where one of the U.K.’s richest universities resides alongside the highest rate of homelessness in the country.

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