News Column

Review: the Good Person of Sichuan

October 10, 2013

YellowBrix

Mercury Theatre, Colchester Review by John Perfect IT'S thought- provoking theatre in a style that would surely have met with the approval of its writer.

The Mercury's Made in Colchester production of Bertolt Brecht's classic 1943 masterpiece has been brought right up to date by director Nikolai Foster, retaining and developing the wit and humour of the late German playwright with the addition of music by Tony award nominated composer Grant Olding.

It centres around prostitute-turned-shopkeeper Shen Te powerfully played by Tanya Franks, a familiar face to followers of hit TV show Broadchurch, who slips into her role and disguises herself as the very practical cousin Shiu Ta with great aplomb. It's all about the problems of doing the right thing and keeping your head above water when faced with the economic pressures of modern life and is as relevant today as when Brecht first put pen to paper.

The good person is at first being sought by three Gods on a fact- finding mission - a job that is not proving easy. But Wang the water seller, played with verve by Jake Davies with typical Brechtian addresses directly to the audience, has been waiting for the gods' arrival and it is he who points them to the warm-hearted Shen Te who provides them with accommodation.

It is clear that whilst she is honest she is surrounded by hangers-on - even the one she loves, the would-be mail pilot Yang Sun (Gary Shelford), is only seeking a romantic tie-up for what he can get out of it.

She loses the shop but disguised as her cousin her approach to business hardens.

Some of the large cast take on more than one role in what is an amazingly absorbing production that heads towards the gods' verdict on what they have seen.

It is sure to keep you debating for days on whether a person's economic situation determines their morality. Man to Man by Manfred Karge, inspired by the same true story as The Good Person of Sichuan , is also playing in the studio until October 19. It is the first time these two plays have ever been performed alongside one another and this has inspired a festival of ideas, The Only Way is Ethics, with a series of events to discuss the big question: does poverty get in the way of doing good? Until October 19. Bookings on 01206 573948

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