aie BRECHT PLAY OPENS SEASON by Alma Pietroni ss The Cyprus Theatrical Organisation opens its new season this coming week with Bertolt Brecht's. The Good Person of Setzuan,” in a production by the East German Director Heinz Uwe Haus, already well-known in Cyprus from his collabora- tion with the Cyprus Theatre in earlier years. The combination . of Brecht and Haus promises to result in a gripping and pro- yocative production that is certain to excite, startle and capti- vate, Haus’ previous productions here were two other Brecht plays, The Caucasian Chalk Circle and Mother Courage and Shakespeare's Measure For Measure. It comes as no surprise that as a kind of Brecht specialist Haus endorses the Brech- tian concept of alienation. . Haus stresses: “Brecht once said, and! find this very good, that theatre must be a practical reflection of reality it must put the audience and the actors in a position where they can change the world and this is not only because the laws of social devel- opment demand such change, but because they want to adapt it to their demands on life, out of désire and conviction”. Like “The Caucasian Chalk Circle”, “The Good Person of Setzuan” is a fable play set in a distant land but these factors in no way detract from the urgency and the topical nature of the play and the problems it deals with. The sto revolves around the character of Shen Te, the good woman, who lives ina bad society and whois f through the earnings of orced to make her living ‘ostitution. Despite this paradox, the Gods reward Shen Te for her goodness, Good and Evil: However, in order ‘lo survive the rapa- ciousness of her neigh- bours and so that the goodness which she per- sonifies can survive, Shen Te invents and Occasionally assumes the form of a tough, unyielding cousin, Shui Ta. Gradually, conflicts arise out of this duality. Shen Tecannotmaintain a balance between the somewhat ruthless sur- vival tactics of her cou- sin and her own altruistic (but, neverthe- less, self-destructive) sacrifices. : Bracht’s “The Good Persen of in brief, the play ques- tions the clash between good and evil, Is a human being intrinsically wicked or is it the environment or society which force him to become evil in order to survive the exploitation? Moreover, are Shen Te's tactics of deception and exploitation, in.the form of “Director Hekcz Uwe Haus expla Shui Ta. justified even though they are necessary for her own survival? The Gods are “only onlookers” and base all their faith and base all their faith and optimism in the good- ness of the human race, in the person of Shen Te: FIRS OD: “And. aa a Mattar of fac, we only need One [good person) on our slide. These athelsts ara saying, “The world must be changed because no ena can ba good and stay godd”, No one, eh? { say: fet ws find ona - just one - and: wa have thosa fellows where we want them Hrecht's leftist views about the nature of society, however, indicate that the atheists “change” would ing a polni te actors fer aseene in Satzuan” he tar more preferable to the complacent and rather hon-productive optimism of the Gods. But in true Brechtian style, no solution is imposed on the audience. On the contrary, the specta- tor is invited in the Epilogue to ponder upon and supply a possible resolution: “Could one change people? Can the world be changed?/ Would new gods do. the trick? Will atheism?/ Moral rearma- ment? Materialism? /it is for you to find a way, my triends,/ To help good men arrive at happy ends.” Participation In this way, Brecht eii- cits audience participation while at the same time en- suring that the audience si} does not become subjec- tively carried away, allow- ing emotional responses to overwhelm rational ones. In connection with this, Herr Haus says, “in my Opinion, it is of consider- able significance that the, Spectator has the freedom to dispute mentally as well as. practically, through di- rect exchange with whatis being performed during the theatrical process that he finds himself stimulated | into taking such an active relationship with the theat- rical environment, through the-structure of the presen- tation and the method of communicative behavi- our.” Working in close col- laboration with the direc- tor, are the assistant director, Tassos Anastas- siou, the stage and cos- tuma designers, Costas Katkarides and Glyn Hughes, the composer George Kotsonis and of course, the actors, The play has been translated into Greek by Marios Ploritis. Considering that Herr Haus is directing, in English, a German play which is being performed in Greek, ona - would be justified in sup- Posing that it would give rise to a communication gap. even spoke English, Universal However, Herr Haus is eager to stress that cam- munication in theatre isnot only achieved through lan- guage. “Theatre is not just literature, itis an art which combines visual and men- tal attitudes. Last year | was working in Italy with an Italian theatrical com- pany directing Brecht's “Fear and Misery in the Third Reich: and despite the fact that no one itere the play was a success. In theatre thera is a universal language... Theatre is me- diated via the senses basi- cally it is a sensual phenomenon. tt is the total theatre that people respond to - the information or the content plus the way in which this is sensually me- diated. To a great extent, this mediation via the senses is made all the more available to the spectators’ percep- tions through the stage and costume design. In this pro- duction, both these are somewhat influenced by the fantastic productions of the celebrated director, Beno Besson, who directed “The Good Person of Setzu- an’ in 1957, in the ‘60's at the Berliner Ensemble (Brecht's foundation) and again in the 70's. Costas Kafkarides, Studied stage designin Sof- ia, Bulgaria (1967-1972) and this is the first time he has worked with the direc- for and Glyn Hughes, He has kept the actual stage design to a - minimum: ainst a backdrop of daz- a ziingly white and shimmer- | ing plastic and a floor of a similar material which bil- tows and ripples, one gets an amazing impression of Durity at odds with the cor- ruption in Setzuan. ae sez — Stunning Occasionally, to den- ote achange’in scenery, the white background is re- placed by a jet-black shiny One and the contrast is so stunning, that the specta- toris reminded of the harsh realities of the play and sees the plastic for what it is and what it represents: - the plastic life we live in. Props are also kept to the bare essentials: against the white plastic, a hang- man's tree with a rope hanging from it or in another scene_the convin- cingly ugly and dirty fa- cade of the room in which Shen Te entertains her visi- tors. The plastic which was so white and pure in the Spectator's mind, now, in connection with the praps, becames sullied and untou- chabie. The frugality in the stage design also serves to enhance the movements and costumes ofthe actors. Glyn Hughes, who concen- trated his talents mainly on the design of the costumes, has managed to dress the actors in the most incredi- ble array of clothes and co- ms ee lours making the actors seem real, funny, tragic or pitiful but never absurd or unbelievable What is even more amazing is the fact that nearly all the actors wear white Qgauze-like face masks with just a slit for the eyes, nose and mouth. Surprisingly enough, this does not detract trom the facial expressions or inter- fere with the credibility of the characters’ actions and gesticulations. If anything, these are convincingly em- phasized The blankness of their faces Serves ta enhance the sensuality of their move- ments and it reminds the Spectator not only ofthe fu- tility of the fives they lead but also of the fact that these faceless people can be found all over the world because the one thing they all have in common is po- verty a poverty that is ap- parent in their economic conditions and their mor- als. Referring to this, Herr Haus says, “Someone said fo me that he found the masks frightening and | re- plied “Why? human faces are like this’..”