Composers and their stage works 

The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui

(Der aufhaltsame Aufsteig des Arturo Ui)

Bertolt Brecht
(with Margarete Steffin)

Parable, prologue and 16 scenes; verse. Written 1941. Published 1957. Produced Stuttgart, 10 November, 1958.

Cast: 28m, 2f, extras

Arturo Ui is a small-time gangster who decides to take over control of the greengrocery protection racket in Chicago. First he wins the support of a hitherto decent politician, Dogsborough. A projected text reminds us that this was how Hitler won President Hindenburg to his cause. Ui's hoodlums set fire to the warehouse, a crime for which the unfortunate Fish is condemned in a farcical trial ( a reference to the Reichstag fire in 1933, and the subsequent trial of the mentally deficient Dutchman Van der Lübbe). Ui then murders his rival Ernesto Roma (refernce to Ernst Röhm, head of the SA, who threatened Hitler's hold on power). Finally, by gunning down Ignatius Dullfeet, Ui succeeds in taking over the market in neighbouring Cicero as well (reference to the assassination of the Austrian Chancellor, Dollfuss and the Nazi annexation of Austria in 1938). An epilogue warns us that the womb that bore Hitler is still fertile.

A farcical portrayal of the rise to power of Hitler using the figures of Hollywood gangster movies was a brilliantly conceived and much-imitated way of portraying how a ridiculous individual can manipulate and bully his way to power. According with Dürrenmatt's view that the only thing that tyrants fear is mockery, this play was nevertheless too controversial to reach the stage until almost two decades after it was written. While closely based on Hitler, this 'historical farce' finds resonance in many political contexts, urging audiences to recognize that moves towards the right are 'resistible'.

(The Oxford Dictionary of Plays)

Playbill - Library Theatre Production , Manchester