Dr. David Cowan
One of the joys of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival is the opportunity to see plays that are not so often performed. This is because it may not be fashionable or for economic reasons. Brecht’s ensemble plays are a case in point. So, it was great to catch up on Brecht at the Fringe with the Italia Conti Ensemble 2017 performing The Good Person of Sichuan.
I’ve seen a number of Brecht plays over the years, and I usually enjoy them. His economic understanding leaves a lot to be desired frankly, and even those further on the left of politics tend to treat his brand of Marxism with faint nostalgia. That said, I think he does understand the human predicament in the economy. This predicament applies whether it lies in the crushing of the human spirit in communism or the spiritual ennui in a market economy.
We follow three Gods who are on a fact-finding mission to reward any truly good person they can find in Sichuan province. They come across Shen Te, who despite being a prostitute, decide she seems a good person and so provide her with her means to start a small shop. However, this generosity and gift of financial stability is threatened by people taking advantage of her generous nature. The threat is dissipated by the sudden arrival of her ruthless ‘cousin’, Shui Ta. He takes matters in hand to protect Shen Te’s interests. The double act is undermined by Shen Te falling in love as Shui Ta starts to do very nicely out of other people’s hardship.
In looking for the good person, we are invited to wonder what a good person is, and how it can be possible for people to be good within the construct of economic relations. I suggest it is certainly possible, but as Brecht shows us it is also very difficult.
The Good Person of Sichuan is performed admirably and entertainingly by a young ensemble. Using a basic space with few props, imaginatively moved around as the scene allows, the action, directed by Katherine Landon-Smith, moves along at a good pace. I thoroughly enjoyed the combination of Natasha Calland and Hannah Morrison jointly playing Shen Te/Shui Te, but the whole cast thoroughly deserved the enthusiastic round of applause they got from the audience.
This show is definitely worth seeing, especially if you’ve never seen a good person before!