Winner of the Mark Marvin Award at the Peter Brook Awards 2012
The European premiere of
SILENT PARTNERS by Charles Marowitz
based on The Brecht Memoir by Eric Bentley
In 1942 California, a young British academic named Eric Bentley met the exiled German playwright, poet and polemicist Bertolt Brecht. This was the beginning of a fifteen-year collaboration and a relationship that was part bromance, part Faustian pact. From the Second World War, via the McCarthy era, to the Cold War, Bentley dealt with the contradictions of an impossible human being who was also one of the greatest artists of the century.
Charles Marowitz was Peter Brook’s assistant on the Royal Shakespeare Company ‘Theatre of Cruelty’ season, and one of the founders of the London Fringe.
Cast: Robert Bradley, Matt Butcher, Jonathon Gibson, Alex Harland, Nada Sharp, Zoe Simon
Directed by David Cottis
Designed by Andy Robinson
Lighting Design by Richard Hillier
Music by Jonathan Cohen
Produced by Emanuela H Craveri
June 25- July 20 at the White Bear Theatre, Kennington.
Review: Michael Billington in the Guardian – Three Stars
When the maverick playwright and director Charles Marowitz ran the Open Space theatre in London he did a fascinating adaptation of Wilde’s The Critic as Artist. In this new play, first seen in Washington in 2006 and based on The Brecht Memoir by Eric Bentley, he deals with the tricky relationship between the critic and artist. When the play sticks to the known facts it is fascinating, but loses its impetus when it enters the realm of retrospective condemnation.
Bentley and Brecht first met in Santa Monica in 1942. Bentley taught English at UCLA; Brecht was living in exile with his wife, Helene Weigel, and lover, Ruth Berlau, and hoping to make his mark in the US. As Marowitz makes abundantly clear, each man wanted something from the other. Bentley sought academic status and recognition; Brecht needed an ambassador for his work in the States. But the relationship was bedevilled by the two men’s political attitudes. Bentley was a classic liberal, while Brecht was – or seemed to be – a hardline communist.
All this is expertly charted by Marowitz: was Brecht good, as his followers believed, insofar as he was communist – or good, as Bentley argued, insofar as he was Brecht? But, after the two men go their separate ways in 1948, the play becomes a less compelling piece that lapses into self-righteous attacks on their failures. Brecht is accused of failing to support the East German workers’ uprising in 1953, while Bentley halfheartedly endorses the American campus revolutions of 1968. Marowitz also questionably assumes that, even when Bentley and Brecht were together, they never talked about the things that mattered.
The play is well staged by David Cottis and gets good performances from Jonathon Gibson as Bentley, Alex Harland as Brecht and Zoe Simon as Berlau, even if none of them looks much like the originals. And, whatever its flaws, the play shows that critic and artist exist in a state of creative tension and shared dependency.