HITLER’S chilling rise to power was captured superbly by the cast members of The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui, which opened at Nottingham Playhouse last Wednesday.
Bertolt Brecht’s allegory, which he wrote while exiled in Finland in 1941, charts the gains made by Hitler in the 1920s and 1930s - and suggests that although no-one apart from his loyal henchmen supported him, he was able to secure power through a mix of intimidation, deceit, charm and taking advantage of people’s apathy.
Set in 1930s Chicago, in the era of Al Capone, the audience is invited into a world of corrupt business owners and shady gangsters, whose moral codes make them difficult to tell apart.
There are obvious parallels with Hitler’s rise to power: Arturo Ui’s desire to gain influence in the Cauliflower Trust is Hitler’s desire to gain influence with the German middle classes and Arturo’s plan to annexe the neighbouring town of Cicero mirrors Hitler’s plan to annexe Austria.
Furthermore, each of the characters are a direct depiction of those from history, while events in the play, such as the warehouse fire trial are based on real-life events such as the shambolic Reichstag fire trial of 1933.
And Arturo himself, played wonderfully by Ian Bartholomew, beared an unnerving resemblance to Hitler with his moustache, powerful oratory and even his body movements.
As Brecht intended, he does not come across as a criminal or political mastermind, but a petty, rough and deranged criminal. He’s an outsider who does not even manage to convince people to follow him; rather he capitalises on the sleaze, corruption and financial hardship of Depression-era Chicago and uses it to his advantage.
The play is also a lesson from history that no country is immune from the will of a dictator, particularly when it is suffering economic hardship.
The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui will be performed at Nottingham Playhouse until 12th November. For details visit www.nottinghamplayhouse.co.uk or call (0115) 9419419. Follow on Twitter #arturoiu.