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I live in Bedford, England. Having retired from teaching; I am now a research student at the University of Bedfordshire researching into Threshold Concepts in the context of A-level Physics. I love reading! I enjoy in particular fiction (mostly great and classic fiction although I also enjoy whodunnits), biography, history and smart thinking. I have also recently become a keen playgoer to London Fringe Theatre. I enjoy mostly classics and I read the playscripts and add those to the blog. I am a member of Bedford Writers' Circle. See their website here: http://bedford-writers.co.uk/ Follow me on twitter: @daja57

Thursday, 12 May 2016

"The Good person of Szechwan" by Bertolt Brecht

Comprising ten scenes and interludes but not divided into acts, this play is in Brecht's typical style. He wanted to use theatre to stimulate social change so his plays attempt to jolt audiences out of any empathy with the characters towards a more rational analysis of what is going on. To do this he breaks up the action with songs and by having the actors address the audience directly from time to time. In this play he also ends leaving several loose ends and a 'player' adds an epilogue which asks the audience to consider several questions including:
Should the world be changed
Or just the gods?

Three gods visit the province of Szechwan in their quest to find a good person. Wang the (cheating) water-seller does his best to find them lodgings. The only person who will give them a room is Shen Teh, a prostitute. The gods reward her with enough money to but a small tobacco shop. But as soon as she does, poor people emerge to beg from her, blaming her for their misfortune. She falls in love with a wannabe pilot who only tries to sponge off her; even Wang tries to persuade her to perjure herself so he can sue the barber for hurting his hand. She has to call on the services of her cousin Shui Ta who is a much more ruthless businessman to get the bloodsuckers off her back. It is soon revealed that Shui Ta is actually Shen Teh in disguise. This is made explicit at the half way point when, in an interlude in front of the curtain, Shen Teh appears carrying Shui Ta's mask and clothes to sing the "Song of the Defenceless of the Good and the Gods":
Why can't the gods launch a great operation
With bombers and battleships, tanks and destroyers
And rescue the good by a ruthless invasion?
Then maybe the wicked would cease to annoy us.
In some ways this is exactly what Shui Ta is doing. The question then becomes; can Shen Teh still be a good person if she is refusing charity and forcing other people to work for her, sometimes in less than ideal working conditions (this is also a good question in Les Miserables when Jean Valjean is making his fortune as the proprietor of the factory in which Cosette is employed; he might be a good employer compared to the others but he is still profiting from the labour of others).

I like to get emotionally involved with Drama so I find Brecht challenging. But there is no doubt that he poses some serious moral problems in this play. Is it possible to be a good person in this world? And why tobacco?

I saw this play in November 2013 performed by Bedford Modern School's Theatre in Transit featuring Georgina Brand as a god.

May 2016; 109 pages

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