Crucible Theatre, Sheffield (studio)
16 March 2023 (released)
18 March 2023
The Good Person of Szechwan is introduced as being a tale of morality, capitalism and love and this breakneck production certainly delivers on its promise. The production, an adaptation of playwright Bertolt Brecht’s 1941 classic, has already been selected as a best theatre pick for 2023 by The Guardian, Daily Telegraph and The Times and with good reason too. The Good Person of Szechwan is a whirlwind rollercoaster that leaves no stone unturned when asking itself, and the audience, tough moral questions. It is a claustrophobic cluster of contradictions and rippling domino effects. The plot weaves in and out, characters twist and turn before exploding into unique karaoke inspired song and dance numbers and there is more than enough within its two-and-a-half-hour runtime to keep the audience engaged and on their toes.
Set in China, it begins with three Gods coming down to Earth with one seemingly simple task; find a good person, or else doom the planet to Armageddon. The moral stakes are set high from the beginning but the outstanding cast manage to capture the entire essence of what makes this production so effective by offsetting these intense themes with such energy, humour and a constant sense of chaos and unpredictability. Lead actor Ami Tredrea, who plays Shen Te, is an effervescent beacon of energy and enthusiasm on the stage and does an outstanding job of presenting all the different facets of their character in a way that is really relatable to the audience. Tredrea acts on behalf of each audience member as they traverse through the many desperate dilemmas of not just what it’s like to struggle in the modern world, but also what it’s like to face that challenge as a woman and the different challenges that presents.
I’m sure that too many people can relate too closely to some of the key messages in the production and its adaptation is certainly timely with people trying to navigate surviving in a cost-of-living crisis alongside trying to maintain kindness and compassion for one another in a world that is growing ever crueller. One of the most affecting moments of the entire play is when we are told that “it should not be a luxury to love just for love itself.” In this moment, the play brings us back down to Earth and reminds us that it is not material things that we lose when we are faced with financial struggle but that we are at risk of losing the basic things that makes life so meaningful in the first place. This story is a timely warning of the stakes that are really at play in an often-overwhelming modern world and leaves the audience considering the wider impact of their decisions and the incremental changes we can implement to help make the world a better place.
As I walked out of the theatre on a cold northern night, a freezing solitary man was performing a beautiful and lonely rendition of ‘I Can’t Help Falling In Love With You’ as he faced a cold night on the street. I couldn’t help but think to myself that the holistic message of the show was right. If we can’t do good, we must at least do better.
The Good Person of Szechuan is at the Crucible Theatre, Sheffield until 1st April and then the Lyric Hammersmith, London from 15th April to 13th May.