Review: The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui at Chichester Festival Minerva Theatre

Mark Carlisle, Steve Simmonds, Peter Moreton, Amanda Gordon (Musicians). The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui. Photo by Manuel Harlan
Mark Carlisle, Steve Simmonds, Peter Moreton, Amanda Gordon (Musicians). The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui. Photo by Manuel Harlan
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If Chichester’s main house is consumed with Bernard Shaw’s verbose analysis of the leadership failings of the first world war, opposite in the Minerva there is a parallel portrait of the second.

Both plays are regarded as classics, both examine the political governance which drove the biggest conflicts in Europe in the 20th century, and both deal liberally in metaphor and parable.

But it is the Minerva which boasts the masterpiece of Brecht while the main house settles for the tedium of Shaw.

And this is a masterpiece – in every aspect of its staging, direction and casting.

Rarely has such a powerful concept towered across the Minerva’s tiny stage.

It chronicles the rise of Arturo Ui, a fictional 1930s, Chicargo gangster and his attempts to control the cauliflower trade through protectionism, execution, and mob rule.

But written in 1941, it is more than this. It is, in truth, a courageous and brutally honest understanding of the rise of Hitler.

This Hitler is a vain, shallow, unintelligent, all-consuming egotist – whose ruthlessness is driven by a pragmatism to survive.

He is both ridiculous and deadly – like some bizarre cartoon creation.

Henry Goodman’s portrayal of Arturo is, quite simply, a work of genius. This is acting of the highest order – in movement, tone, and sheer force of personality.

The whole cast – which includes a sublimely understated performance by the wonderful William Gaunt – work their magic; but no-one can nor should outshine Goodman.

Directed by Jonathan Church – he demonstrates, if any proof were still needed, why he deserves to be the theatre’s artistic director.

True, to date the 50th year of CFT has not been its greatest. But this production of Arturo Ui is.

Not to be missed for all the cauliflowers in the world.

Gary Shipton