The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui

Written by Bertolt Brecht

Thursday 6th May to Saturday 8th May and Thursday 13th May to Saturday 15th May 1982

Directed by Jacquie Penrose

"Ui is a parable play, written with the aim of destroying a dangerous respect commonly felt for great killers...The petty rogue whom the rulers permit to become a rogue on the grand scale can occupy a special position in roguery, but not in our attitude to history... If the collapse of Hitler's enterprises is no evidence that he was a half-wit, neither is their scope any guarantee that he was a great man." BERTOLT BRECHT

AuthorBertolt Brecht

Eugen Bertolt Friedrich Brecht (1898 - 1956)

Brecht was a poet, playwright, and theatre director. Born in Augsburg, Germany, he studied philosophy and medicine at the University of Munich before becoming a medical orderly in a German military hospital during the First World War. This experience reinforced his hatred of war and influenced his support for the failed Socialist revolution in 1919. After the war Brecht returned to university but became more interested in literature - his first play to be produced was Baal in 1922.

Together with Kurt Weill he later wrote The Threepenny Opera (based on The Beggar's Opera). Brecht added his own lyrics which illustrated his growing belief in Marxism. He also attempted to develop a new approach to the the theatre. He tried to persuade his audiences to see the stage as a stage, actors as actors and not to overlook the traditional make-believe of the theatre. Brecht required detachment, not passion, from the observing audience. The purpose of the play was to awaken the spectators' minds so that he could communicate his version of the truth.

Brecht's plays reflected a Marxist interpretation of society and when Adolf Hitler gained power in 1933 he was forced to flee from Germany - living in Denmark, Sweden and the Soviet Union and finally the USA. While living in exile he wrote anti-Nazi plays such as 'The Roundheads and the Peakheads' and 'Fear and Misery of the Third Reich'. This was later followed by 'Galileo', 'Mother Courage', 'The Good Man of Szechuan', 'The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui' and the 'Caucasian Chalk Circle'.

In 1947 Brecht was named in the House of Un-American Activities Committee investigation. He denied being a member of the American Communist Party but soon after left the USA for East Germany. In 1949 Brecht founded the Berliner Ensemble (which became the country's most famous theatre company) with his wife and long-time collaborator, the actress Helene Weigel.

PlayThe Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui

This play chronicles the rise of a fictional 1930s Chicago mobster - Arturo Ui - and his attempts to control the cauliflower racket by ruthlessly disposing of the opposition. It was written by Brecht in 1941 whilst in exile in Helsinki awaiting a visa to enter the US. The play was not produced on the stage until 1958, and not in English until 1961. It is consciously a highly satirical allegory of Adolf Hitler in Nazi Germany, whose rise Brecht represented in parallel to that of Ui.

All the characters and groups in the play had direct counterparts in real life; Ui represented Hitler, his henchman Ernesto Roma represented Ernst Roehm, Dogsborough represented Paul von Hindenburg and so on. In addition, every scene in the play is based on a real event, for example the warehouse fire which represented the fire at the Reichstag.

Dramatically it is in keeping with Brecht's epic style of theatre. It opens with a prologue written in the form of a direct address to the audience outlining all the major characters and explaining the basis of the upcoming plot. It also describes in its stage directions the prominence that technical aspects of theatre should play in a production, in order to clarify the parallels. The play also uses frequent references to Shakespeare and other writers to further its messages.

The Bench Production

The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui poster image

This play was staged at Havant Arts Centre, East Street Havant - Bench Theatre's home since 1977.


Arturo UiDavid Urquhart
Ernesto RomaDavid Penrose
GivolaJohn Scadding
GiriRay Osborne
DogsboroughPeter Corrigan
CarutherChris Hall
ButcherPeter Holding
FlakeDerek Cusdin
Young DogsboroughDavid Roberts
HookTony Adams
ProsecutorJim Charlton
GafflesDavid Dipnall
InnaAlan Jenkins
Roma's BodyguardKeith Cobbald
SheetTony Heptinstall
ClarkAnthony Elliott
MulberryFred Jeffries
DockdaisyJill Sawyer
Betty DullfeetRobbie Cattermole
Vegetable dealerKaren Cartwright
Vegetable dealerDavid Graham


Director Jacquie Penrose
Stage Manager Jo German
Assistant Stage Managers Karen Cartwright
Jon Philpot
David Graham
Kevin Fisher
Lighting Sylvia Brierly
Sound Alan Knight
Costumes Jane Hart
Adviser Jenny Graham

Director's Notes

In presenting this portrayal of the rise of Adolf Hitler, Brecht draws on a wide variety of sources. He follows quite closely the events in Germany between 1932 and 1938 (he wrote the play in exile in 1941), and many of the characters in the play are parallels of historical figures. Arturo Ui is of course Hitler; Ernesto Roma is Ernst Roehm, the SA chief:Giri is Goering of the Air Ministry, and Givola is Goebbels, Hitler's propaganda chief. Dogsborough is Germany's President Hindenburg, and Clark is Von Papen, Chancellor and Hitler's Vice-Chancellor between 1933 and 1934.

Brecht also reflects the events of the Gangster Era in Chicago; the death of Roma is an echo of the St Valentine's Day Massacre. He drew, too, on the imagery of the movies - Hollywood's version of the gangsters in films such as 'Little Caesar' and 'Public Enemy'. Where he differed from the movie was in his belief that there was nothing to show that although a criminal may perpetrate great crimes, he himself remains always despicable. The laughter Brecht evokes with his gangsters' antics is not to ennoble or excuse them, and certainly not to trivialise them, but to show them up in all their awesome and sinister worthlessness.

The scenario that Brecht presents is recognisably possible at other times, past, present and future. He points to a time of recession: people are suffering increasing hardship in deteriorating circumstances. Crime is on the increase, unemployment soars, street violence erupts. An enemy is at work, the people are told; a scapegoat is sought and hounded, while the well-off, anxious to preserve their position, join in the hunt or merely look the other way.

Under similar circumstances Chicago produced Al Capone, and Germany produced Hitler, who rose to power on the backs of the the wealthy establishment, which thought it could both control and use him, but which was blinkered by its fear of the "enemy within" - communism and the alien Jew.

Brecht was not writing about a historical freak; his specific intention was to show that these circumstances could arise again and with the same results. Ui was resistible, Brecht argues, and urges his audience to find a lesson in that fact.

It is interesting to ponder on the fact that the Swastika is once more being daubed on the walls of our streets.

Jacquie Penrose


The NewsAnon

Bench catch the spirit

The gangster world of Chicago in the 1930s was recaptured by Havant's Bench Theatre last night. More than 20 members of the theatre appeared on stage at Havant Arts Centre in Bertolt Brecht's 'The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui', and the director (Mrs Jacquie Penrose) was delighted with the production. On the surface the play is set in the pre-second world was gangster world of Chicago. Arturo Ui, the gangster, is determined to take over the vegetable trade, first in Chicago and then on the neighbouring towns. But this story, with its echoes of Al Capone, runs a close parallel with the rise of Adolf Hitler in Germany between 1932 and 1938. "The play is hard-hitting and powerful. It is also in places extremely funny," said Mrs Penrose. The production continues tonight and tomorrow and from May 13 to 15 at 7.30 p.m. Tickets are £1.10 and 60p for students.

The News, 7th May 1982

Production Photographs