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Fear and Misery of the Third Reich review at Union Theatre, London – ‘resonant’

The cast of Fear and Misery of the Third Reich at the Union Theatre. Photo: Scott Rylander
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This series of vignettes written by Brecht in 1938 offers insight into the speed and voracity with which the Nazis took control of Germany. Using a naturalistic, often comic style, the scenes explore the insidious rise of fascism and how the nation buckled under the bullying tactics of extreme politics.

Director Phil Willmott’s well-balanced production juggles with the running order, highlighting a deepening sense of terror without stifling the power of each individual scene. Parents are driven to fear their children, suspicion rules and the judicial system is exposed as beyond corrupt.

An ensemble cast capture the subtleties of humour and pathos in each scene with noteworthy performances from Clara Francis, as the Wife facing the uncertainty of exile, and Felix Mathur, who is frankly terrifying as a thuggish SA man. In his professional debut, Joe Dowling may not suit the schoolboy role physically but he lends remarkable focus and urgency to the narration.

While some of the lighting cues need fine-tuning, Nik Corrall’s chaotic set design mirrors the uncertainty of the period and the Hitler masks are a touch of genius. Rarely performed in this country, Brecht’s words ring out like a warning from history that couldn’t be more prescient in today’s political climate.

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Verdict
Resonant production of Brecht performed by a talented, cohesive ensemble
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