THEATRE REVIEW: Never the easy option as Act II break new ground again

The cast of Act II Theatre Company's play, The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui, starring (from left) Hayley Guest, Morgan Agate, Charlotte Charleston-Stokes, Sarah Green, Sophie Gale, Dominique Spinks, Becky Girard, Seren Cave, James Girard, Rory Prestt, Rebe Hawes and Molly Riches.

The cast of Act II Theatre Company's play, The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui, starring (from left) Hayley Guest, Morgan Agate, Charlotte Charleston-Stokes, Sarah Green, Sophie Gale, Dominique Spinks, Becky Girard, Seren Cave, James Girard, Rory Prestt, Rebe Hawes and Molly Riches.

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The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui, Act II Theatre Company, South Holland Centre, Spalding

From the moment Dominique Spinks sang the US national anthem, The Star-Spangled Banner, like a nightingale, you knew there would be precious few laughs at South Holland Centre on Saturday.

That’s exactly how Act II Theatre Company would have wanted as its precocious stars from the Advanced Skills class pulled off as dark and as bleak a satire as The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui is.

Drawing on inspiration from Shakespeare’s Richard III and Macbeth, mixed with Al Capone and Adolf Hitler, German playwright Bertolt Brecht came up with what he called “a gangster play that would recall certain events familiar to us all”.

Ui (James Girard) is a parody of Hitler himself, but set in Chicago during the Prohibition era when the alcohol trade was banned at the same time as gangsters realised they could bootleg their way to criminal, economic and political power.

But Act II set Ui on course for domination of Chicago’s greengrocery trade, helped by a motley crew of henchman named Roma, Giri and Givola (Rory Prestt, Hayley Guest and Morgan Agate).

James Girard sends up US presidential candidate Donald Trump in Act II Theatre Company's The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui at South Holland Centre, Spalding.

James Girard sends up US presidential candidate Donald Trump in Act II Theatre Company's The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui at South Holland Centre, Spalding.

Full marks go to the entire cast, including Rebe Hawes (Dogsborough), Seren Cave (Dullfeet and Defence Counsel), Sophie Gale and Charlotte Charleston-Stokes (O’Casy and The Judge), Sarah Green (in her swansong Act II play as Butcher and Prosecution) and Molly Riches (Cauliflower Trust and The Actor) for throwing themselves into a potentially difficult and black subject.

Director Karl Gernert said: “This is our first piece of overtly political theatre and we have had a lot of fun playing with theatrical convention and pushing the boundaries of what can be achieved.”

However, this play was most notable for the emergence of Becky Girard (Dogsborough Junior and Fish) as the latest product of the Girard acting dynasty.

Review by Winston Brown