In a very short season at The Street Theatre is Brecht: Bilbao and Beyond. Not a play, but a series of songs, fables, poems and excerpts of plays, all written by the impeccable German wordsmith, Bertholt Brecht, and performed by two veterans of the stage whose presence is gentle, inviting and absolutely engaging.

Tracing elements of Brecht's life and work from birth to death (and then back a little), we are treated to just a few gems of his amazingly generous humour and capriciousness.

For those who know nothing of the man or his life, this production isn't likely to enlighten you. It does seem to demand some basic knowledge of either Brecht's life or his work, although a most basic background should suffice to string together the varied references to his life, work, and most importantly, his values and ideology. For those who have been privileged enough to have encountered Brecht's work, though, this show is an absolute joy.

The music for many of Brecht's lyrics used in this show were composed especially for it by its pianist Chuck Mallet, with a large proportion of the remainder composed by Kurt Weill, a contemporary of Brecht who was best known for his collaborations with the bard. Mallet plays with admirable energy and is an excellent foil for John Muirhead's Brecht.

Muirhead's portrayal of Brecht is abrupt, engaging and funny, with just the right balance of each and brilliant transitions between emotional intensity and clinical didacticism. Of course, this show just wouldn't be worthy of Brecht's name without using his characteristic verfremdungseffekt, but this alienation device does stand or fall on timing. Muirhead's sense of timing is impeccable.

Likewise, Muirhead's portrayal of the occasional other character, which provides greater depth to the story of Brecht's life than even a dedicated fan like myself has previously enjoyed, is commendable. With simple props like a scarf, a rag and a tablet computer, Muirhead on his own represents an all star cast!

Brecht: Bilbao and Beyond is a fitting tribute to a playwright whose influence over modern theatre is greater than we tend to recognise. The show reflects its creators' depth of experience and leaves this Brecht fan wanting more.


The Street Theatre presents
Brecht: Bilbao and Beyond

Venue: Street 2 | 15 Childers Street, Canberra, ACT
Dates: 2 – 3 Jun 2012
Duration: 75 minutes, no interval.
Tickets: $25 - $19
Bookings: (02) 62471223 | www.thestreet.org.au

Most read reviews

Because the Night | Malthouse Theatre

If you’re looking for a show that’s completely different and unlike anything you’ve seen in Australia, head to Because the Night.

Chess The Musical | StoreyBoard Entertainment

For fans of the musical, the problems and changes to the book and plot of Chess are as familiar to them as the score itself and arguably, all this messing about has resulted in an inability to now claim anything as a definitive version. 

Berlin | Melbourne Theatre Company

Through the eyes of her own children during a family holiday to the German capital in 2015, Murray-Smith pondered the feelings and implications for the young drawn to a city so rich in history and creativity but also one so profoundly soaked in shame.

The Removalists | New Theatre

The behaviour of the men is misogynous. The behaviour of men in authority menacing. The Removalists is as relevant today as it was then.

Most read news

MTC to premiere Digital Theatre

Audiences around Australia will have the opportunity to see Melbourne Theatre Company productions direct from stage to screen with the premiere of MTC Digital Theatre – Friday 16 April 2021.

Audience wanted!

Come Dance with Me is a brand new TV dance competition show filming at Docklands Studio Melbourne for American Television.