The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui Visual, Aural and Spatial Visual: Brecht intended the set of each of his plays to be a constant reminder

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Candidate Name:                Bethany Weston

Candidate Number:        4570

Centre Name:                Oulder Hill Community School

Centre Number:                33237

Unit 1 Play:

The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui

Visual, Aural and Spatial


  • Brecht intended the set of each of his plays to be a constant reminder to the audience that they are watching a play, and not real life events occurring as they’re watched. Because of this desire of Brecht’s the curtain did not conceal such things as scene changes, and stage lights were clearly visible.
  • Brecht gave precise instructions on how certain aspects of the play should be performed. Of the play as a whole, he said he wished it to be performed in the grand style, with obvious references to Elizabethan theatre, with curtains and different levels. For The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui, he suggested that the action should be performed in front of a white curtain spattered with ox blood.
  • The stage directions preceding the prologue at the beginning of the play state that several ‘Large notices are attached to the curtain’. These notices aid Brecht’s dramatic purpose to disallow the audience to be taken in by the play or drawn into the drama emotionally; he wished his audience to know exactly what they were going to see, and so informs them of the six main events of the play through these notices.
  • The prologue also demonstrates Brecht’s unique way of introducing the characters to the audience prior to the plays commencement: He uses the Announcer to introduce the characters, and inform the audience of their main traits, as they physically ‘step before the curtain’ and ‘step back’. By introducing the characters to the audience in this way, Brecht implements a feeling of somewhat discomfort in the audience, as they’re used to the characters of a play being brought in and developed naturally, as the play progresses. However, by using this method of introduction, Brecht immediately begins to establish Verfremdungseffekt or the ‘V’ effect between his actors and the audience.
  • As an AS level drama group, we spent time in class developing a strong understanding of the ‘V’ effect as we know it to be a significant Brechtian technique. To do this, we practised acting out scenes singularly, and narrating them, initially in the first person, then using the third person narrative in order to develop a separation between ourselves as actors, and the characters we were playing.
  • This is how Brecht wished the actors in The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui to be: instead of utilizing the Stanislavskian technique of identifying with and becoming their characters, they should remain isolated from their characters, ensuring that the audience are not empathetic and are restrained from undergoing catharsis throughout the play.
  • Brecht’s use of signs was developed, as signs appear between scenes in the play as well as before the prologue. These signs are used as a method of demonstrating to the audience the historical event during Hitler’s rise to power that each particular scene parallels. By doing this, and directly informing the audience of what it is he’s conveying, Brecht further develops the alienation effect and ‘V’ effect that he wished to create.
  • Brecht developed an idea of Gestus, which became an essential link between his theory of acting and his practice as a playwright. Brecht distinguished Gestus, from gesture, by calling it ‘a number of related gestures expressing such different attitudes as politeness and anger’, which he wrote in his book, ‘Brecht on Theatre’.
  • We carried out several practical exercises on Gestus, to help us to understand the meaning of the Brechtian term. For instance, in pairs we worked to convey certain situations without using words. Each situation was to show two extremely contrasting attitudes or states, for instance we were asked to show one person being much poorer than the other. This was simply done, as each pair showed one person high up, with a look of superiority, and one person knelt down on the floor, conveying a look of desperation. This conveyed that certain attitudes are viewed in the same way physically, by everyone, and so are easy to communicate through Gestus.
  • This fact; that certain situations are viewed similarly universally, was something Brecht wished to utilise in this play. He wished for the audience to be able to know what was happening at any point of the play, if the scene was in tableau with no words spoken. In order to identify with this desire and fulfil Brecht’s aspiration, whilst acting out specific scenes of the play, we would freeze in tableau and step out of the scene one at a time, to see if we were conveying strongly enough through Gestus, what was occurring in the scene.
  • A good example of where Gestus is utilised in the play by Brecht, is in scene 6 when Ui takes lessons from an Actor for his speech and stance. The purpose of this scene is to ridicule and satirise the Actor, so that by comparison Ui, and hence Hitler, are also satirised for there immense effort and wish to adopt this satirical stance and dialect.
  • Stage directions aren’t excessively used throughout the play. It’s because of this that when stage directions do appear, they’re thought to be significant and important to Brecht, in conveying his desire for how the play is to be implemented. For instance, the fact that Dogsborough becomes ‘very pale’ in scene four, is significant, as it reflects his anxiety. The colour of his skin may be whitened using chalk at this stage of the play, due to the significance that he appear pale. This is important to Brecht, as he wishes the audience to register how Dogsborough’s appearance has changed, rather than be concerned with what he is feeling.
  • The ‘sign’ made by one of the men outside the courtroom in scene five, immediately before Bowl is shot is an extremely significant visual aspect of the play, and this scene. This is as Ui’s and the gangster’s increasing influence over society, and in this case the judicial system, is conveyed through this one action; we’re told that ‘All look toward the door’, portraying that everyone in the courtroom sees this sign made by the bodyguard. The fact that this sign was witnessed by many, yet Ui and his men go unquestioned, depicts the power that the gangsters are gaining.
  • Through this play, Brecht wishes to convey that if people in Ui’s and so Hitler’s position are able to manipulate people to any degree, the floodgates are opened for them to progress up the hierarchy of power within society, by intimidating and so manipulating people. The lack of punishment received by Ui after the sign made by the bodyguard in scene five, could be viewed as a contribution to the opening of these floodgates, and so the cause of Ui’s eventual attainment of Power. This also conveys how Brecht blames the people of Germany for Hitler’s rise to power.
  • It’s stated in scene seven that ‘Giri wearing Bowl’s hat cuts through the crowd, followed by several gangsters carrying large gasoline cans.’ This is an extremely significant visual facet of the play, as we’re indirectly told here, that Giri has murdered Bowl, as we’re told that Giri often wears the hats of the people he’s ‘rubbed out’, earlier in the play. As well as receiving this information here, this visual feature illustrates Brecht’s overt criticism of the 1930’s public and governmental lack of resistance to Hitler, as it states that they walked through with ‘large gasoline cans’, such that people wouldn’t be able to miss. Yet in court this fact isn’t mentioned, resulting in the prosecution of the wrong man, due to the failure of people to state the truth, due to intimidation felt by Ui, or alternatively Hitler.
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  • Before the prologue, at the start of the play, ‘popular dance music’ is heard. This establishes the era for the audience, and allows them to locate the play.
  • The end of the prologue sees a ‘machine-gun’ being shot and so heard by the audience. The effect of this machine-gun disrupting the flow of the dance music is immense to the audience, as it foreshadows what is to come: here, the staccato machine-gun shots interrupt a flowing sound, just as the gangsters and Ui are to interrupt a peaceful, albeit overwhelmed by depression, City and take it into ...

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