Chicago after the stock market crash: One crisis is followed by the next, and where can you make easy savings during an inflation? On vegetables. Even the ever-popular cauliflower is left on the shelves. Chicago’s greengrocers are desperate. Only yesterday they were well-known and confident as the world’s leading cauliflower grocers, today they have gone bankrupt.
One man’s meat is another man’s poison, and Chicago’s crime boss Arturo Ui smells an opportunity. He knows that profit can be found even in people’s greatest hardship and he offers to stimulate vegetable sales among the residents by means of threatening violence. Instead of taking up Arturo’s rancid deal, the noble lords of cauliflower hatch their own political plan: They convince the reputable but aged politician Dogsborough to help himself from the city’s coffers to save their vegetable establishments. But Ui knows how to use the weaknesses of others and pit them against each other. And he realises that machinations and raw violence alone are not enough to ascend further. Rhetoric and a theatrical sense for manipulating individuals as well as masses are indispensable. Whoever refuses to join Ui will suffer the consequences. Bloodshed and absolute unscrupulousness are the conclusion: Ui’s rise has been accomplished.
Bertolt Brecht wrote this parable on Adolf Hitler and the National Socialist’s ascension to power in Finland in 1941. “Arturo Ui” was to become one of the most prominent and caustic satires about a political tyrant. How can we conceive the barely conceivable: the internal contradiction of how apparently monstrous perpetrators rise up with the supported of the masses? Artists including Brecht, Tabori, Chaplin or Lubitsch have struggled with the question of how to represent this. Perpetrators as strategists in a complicated power matrix? Demagogues or nothing more than crass clowns with a talent for pleasing the masses? Brecht set his parable among US-American gangsters, an “attempt to explain Hitler’s rise to the capitalist world by transposing it into their familiar milieu”. What is the message of Brecht’s parable for us today, in the face of the rise of autocratic systems and a simultaneous increase in nationalism, corruption and inequality?Nuran David Calis
is a director, author and film maker. Beside his productions of classic theatre texts, he is considered to be an expert for documentary theatre formats with political topics. These productions include “Die Lücke – Ein Stück Keupstraße”, which featured witnesses of the 2004 nail bomb attack by the so-called National Socialist Underground on stage at Schauspiel Köln, and “NSU 2.0” at Schauspiel Frankfurt. Following “Der Besuch der alten Dame”, “Arturo Ui” is his fifth production at Schauspiel Leipzig.