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Home arrow Archive: Earlier Fringes arrow Archive: Edinburgh 2011 arrow Fear and Misery of the Third Reich
Fear and Misery of the Third Reich
Published on Sunday, 21 August 2011

2 stars

C venues - C soco (venue website)
3-15, 17-29 Aug, 3:15pm-4:05pm
Reviewed by Liv Watson

 Recommended for age 12+ only.

Achieving the correct formula in a Brecht play – particularly Fear and Misery of the Third Reich – is no easy task. It’s about individual lives, and yet the audience should be kept at arm’s length; it’s a series of disjointed vignettes, but there should also be an overarching message. These paradoxes mean that any student group tackling Brecht’s undeniably bleak play will encounter problems, and whilst The Lincoln Company bravely tackles the difficulties of the script head-on, it falls short of producing an effective or memorable show.

The performance is however a lively one, and the cast should be commended for their ability to switch between characters quickly – whether that character is an indignant schoolboy treated with suspicion by his parents as they become increasingly fearful about eavesdropping, or a pig kept in secret by a farmer who refuses to conform to laws preventing him from feeding his animals grain. Elements of comedy throughout the performance are effectively brought out, and it is here that the cast demonstrate their aptitude in transforming not only between characters but also between highly-charged emotional scenes in an appropriately jarring manner. With limited props (though still, perhaps, rather too many) and fast-paced changes between scenes, the sequence of events remains clear, and the actors perform with energy throughout.

This energy is however occasionally misplaced. In attempting to create the disturbing, defamiliarized effect of a Brechtian performance, the cast interact entirely normally with the audience upon our arrival. Whilst conversing seriously with someone clad in leather lederhosen is a novel experience, though, questions such as ‘why have you come to this show?’ and ‘is there anyone else coming in?’ seem confusing when directed at an already sparse audience, adding a touch of desperation that is perhaps rather more convincingly metatheatrical than the cast would wish.

Added to this are scene changes that are far from seamless and, though they may be modelled after the epic theatre convention, convey more of a nod to ramshackle amateurishness than to the carefully constructed fragments that form the basis of Brecht’s anti-naturalistic works.

The subject matter of Brecht’s Fear and Misery of the Third Reich is difficult; bleak scenes interspersed with black comedy are inevitably tricky to handle for a young cast. The production will prove a good starting point to students of Brecht seeking to understand more about what the playwright sought to achieve, and the political messages behind his work. Unfortunately, those bleak scenes, which should have been consistently underscored with an awareness in the audience of both the genre and the live performance, fail to transmit any lasting impression. Instead of using the performance to demonstrate ‘drama as a medium’, the audience is left very much aware that this show was just that: a student performance. 

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