FOR Sue Pomeroy, I, Bertolt Brecht is like introducing audiences to a good friend.
The director – who will bring her “drama documentary” production about the German poet and playwright to Theatre Royal Wakefield this month – says she wants audiences to experience the power, political edge and pure entertainment of Brecht’s work.
She told The Guide: “It’s like introducing people to a friend you love and you’re saying ‘This is an amazing guy I want you to meet’.
“It also demystifies him. People come out feeling they know him as a man, a writer and the subjects he deals with.”
The idea for the production came after Sue’s award-winning residency with the world famous Berliner Ensemble, which she describes as “one of the most extraordinary experiences of her life”.
Despite not being able to speak German, she lived and worked behind the Berlin Wall in the German Democratic Republic at a time when the ‘Iron Curtain’ had split the world into the East and Western blocks.
It was her love of Brecht’s work and ideas which had taken her to East Berlin at the height of the Cold War and which spurred her to write the play.
She said: “When I got back, people would tell me they didn’t understand Brecht’s writing or his theories – or they’d say they never understood him when they studied him at school.
“I’d say ‘That’s ridiculous, this man is brilliant, funny and such good entertainment.
“Because of that, I put this show together.”
During the remaining years of the communist regime, I, Bertolt Brecht originated at the Warehouse Theatre in Croydon and toured across the UK under the banner of the National Theatre’s education department.
It was performed in Ireland at the height of the ‘troubles’ and across India – but then another historical landmark took place. The Berlin Wall fell.
In a landmark move, Sue’s production was invited to perform at the Berliner Ensemble itself, on the stage of the Schiffbauerdam theatre. She said: “We performed I, Bertolt Brecht in English on the Berliner Ensemble stage.
“It was quite extraordinary.”
Now in a new production, audiences have the chance to catch the show, forged under the shadow of the Berlin Wall, in a different era.
Sue describes it as being like a “Brecht variety show” – showcasing the best of his plays, poems and writings with some of the songs which have made him and his collaborators Kurt Weill and Hans Eisler, famous throughout the world.
Performed by a cast of actor musicians, the “multi-media drama documentary” brings the man and his work to life and features the evocative music of 1930s Berlin, and the jazz scene of the 40s and 50s – including classic songs Mack the Knife and Alabama Song.
Sue added: “I think everyone who sees the show feels really uplifted by it – and empowered. It really makes you feel alive.
“People who don’t know Brecht will come and think ‘That’s really interesting’ while those who do will find out things they didn’t know.”
I, Bertolt Brecht is at Theatre Royal Wakefield on Tuesday February 28.
Michael Adams plays Brecht, while Tristan Pate, fresh from the UK tour of Dreamboats and Petticoats, joins the ensemble to play young Brecht.
Tickets costs £15, £12.50 and £10, plus concessions, and are available by visiting www.theatreroyalwakefield.co.uk or calling the box office on 01924 211311.