Review: 'Fear and Misery of the Third Reich'
By: Taliha Gazi
In true Brechtian style, Fear and Misery of the Third Reich was disturbing for its emotional minimalism. Each individual playlet successfully portrayed the ostensible normality of life under Hitler’s totalitarian rule, at the same time as they hinted at something greater: the moral disintegration of a community and the psychopathic numbness of its characters who, through repeated psychological trauma, have forgotten what it means to be human.
There was no denying the mechanical puppetry of the performance. This is not to suggest a poor execution, but rather an emotional economy which is in fact difficult to convey. It can be very easy for an actor to slip into histrionics in order to try to convey emotion, and to attempt to have this emotion impressed upon an audience’s understanding. Subtlety, however, is often the more powerful dramatic device, both for the sake of complexity and for Brecht’s conception of epic theatre. The jarring union of the blindly patriotic narrative voice, with the automatous lack of human compassion imparted by its characters, is far more harrowing than a play which bows down to convention and uses relatable characters to make an important point about the extraordinary evil humans can be capable of.
Brecht wanted his audiences to critically assess theatre, not see it as a convenient means to achieving cathartic relief. Therefore, the decision to adapt moments in the play to fit modern day phenomena, such as TV gameshows and mobile phone communication, ensures that Fear and Misery of the Third Reich is not merely a historical account of the past, but a referential counterpoint for the present and the future.