Herr Puntila and his Man Matti

Two Year Diploma 2008-2010

Herr Puntila and his Man Matti
By Bertolt Brecht

Nightingale Theatre, 29-30 Surrey Street Brighton BN1 3PA
8th - 12th December 2009

Directed by Joanna Rosenfeld

Bertolt Brecht wrote this satire while exiled in Finland in 1940 and directed the world premiere in Zurich in 1947. He regarded this his best "folk play" and it remains a facinating study on the treatment of humanity by the upper classes.
Puntila, a boorish land-owner whose whims and mood are defined by the amount of alcohol in his system. turns from a heartless capitalist into an ineffectual communist when drunk, playing with the lives of his workers and creating havoc for Eva, his daughter. Puntila is set against his chauffeur Matti, a wise and steadfast working class man and the object of desire for the naive Eva.

"One of Bertolt Brecht's most acute observations on class and capitalism" Star Tribune.

The Argus
Friday 4th December 2009
By Nione Meakin

THE Caucasian Chalk Circle was "too heart-rending" for the festive season; Fear And Loathing In The Third Reich similarly inappropriate and as for Mother Courage, "It's been done to death because it's a set text for A-level". So director Joanna Rosenfeld turned to one of Bertolt Brecht's favourite, if less frequently produced, plays - a timely tale of a boorish land owner whose heartless capitalism switches to ineffectual communism when drunk. Puntila's behaviour, which sees him playing with the lives of his workers and creating havoc for his daughter Eva (who is in love with the family's chaffeur Matti) struck a chord with Rosenfeld.
"I think we have a new class society in the world. It might not be land owners, but we've got bankers who are given bonuses for doing a bad job and the little people are paying for it. How can these bankers who have to go home at night and sleep in beds and have families, how can they be human in their private life then go into the boardroom and play with people's lives? But they are, they're not monsters. It's a fascinating paradox. The play is incredibly fitting for these hard times." Written by the German playwright while he was in exile in Finland in 1940, he regarded it as his best 'folk play'.
"A lot of Brecht plays can be dreary but this is a biting satire and very funny," Rosenfeld says. "It was Brecht's absolute favourite piece. He loved it and when he came out of exile in 1947, he produced it for the Berliner Ensemble. People needed to laugh and be shown they have a chance to change things." Rosenfeld is a firm believer in the importance of political theatre and worries about its scarcity on the contemporary stage. She was "absolutely delighted" by the enthusiasm with which her cast, drawn from Brighton's Academy of Creative Training (ACT), picked up the play's themes.
"It seems a lot of people become actors because they want to be in a soap. Here you have the opportunity to think about what life is about and how we are living at the moment. That doesn't mean, of course, it can't be entertaining." Rosenfeld is baffled by the popular perception of Brechtian performance as alienating and didactic. "I don't know if it's because I'm German or because of how you learn it in this country, but I don't think Brecht wanted it to be wooden or stagey," she says. "It should be alive and warm and a good laugh. Brecht was a populist. He came from the ideal of creating theatre for the masses, so for him to create something elitist defeats the object. This will be a good evening out, not a lecture."