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THE GOOD PERSON OF SETZUAN (article first published : 2004-09-5)

The Drama and Performance Studies Department of the University of KwaZulu-Natal in Durban will present Bertolt Brecht’s famous stage parable, The Good Person of Setzuan, at the Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre from September 7 to 11.

An acknowledged masterpiece by one of the seminal giants of 20th century theatre, The Good Person of Setzuan was written between 1938 and 1941 while Brecht was living in exile, having fled Nazi Germany. Like most of his stage works, it is intended to present not just an entertaining narrative, but also to signal a need for change to its audience.

“Brecht’s genius is that he is able to mesh exciting theatre with social agenda in a unique mix that engages audiences in critical thought,” says the new production’s director, Tamar Meskin. “The story of the good woman forced to invent a wicked cousin to enable her to survive in a world that does not reward goodness still resonates today, perhaps more strongly than ever.

“Our world, beset by war, violence, AIDS, poverty and crime, has much in common with Brecht’s imagined Setzuan, as well as with his own war-torn context in the 1940s. Here and now, as there and then, ‘goodness’ is hard to find and even harder to sustain. The unfailing idealism of Brecht’s belief in the infinite potential and capacity of human beings to change is needed now more than ever.

“Our production seeks to shatter misconceptions that Brecht is boring. Social agendas aside, a sleeping audience cannot be active,” says Meskin. “Our first goal is to present a stimulating and riveting piece of theatre, highlighting the strong elements of fun in Brecht theatre.”

Fast-moving, action-filled, with love stories, intrigue, manipulation, and some very interesting gods thrown in for good measure, Good Person is a play that makes for grand theatrical viewing while at the same time offering profound and pertinent insights into the social and political problems of the world today.

Featuring a cast of talented young performers, The Good Person of Setzuan is mounted by the team responsible for the highly successful FNB Shakespeare Festivals of the past four years, and is a bold, vibrant and accessible version of the classic play. Complimenting Meskin’s visceral direction are designs by Mervyn McMurtry.

Performances from September 7 to 11 are at 19h00. Tickets R25 (R15 students, pensioners and scholars, R10 for block bookings of more than 10).

Further information or bookings from Claudette Wagner (weekdays between 08h30 and 13h00) by phone on 031-260-3134, fax 031-260 1410 or on email wagnerc1@ukzn.ac.za




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