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Svendborg -by Neil Harris, a live play reading

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The Aftermath

57-59 Wyndham Street

Hong Kong, HKI

Hong Kong

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A live play reading of a drama about the famous German poet and playwright Bertolt Brecht.

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Bertolt Brecht, was a German poet, playwright, and theatrical reformer. It would be fair to say he changed the way we think about Theatre.

As a student of drama at university, I thought of Bert Brecht as some kind of a hero. This strange looking little man did not care about doing things differently or upsetting the theatrical apple cart. He created his own dramatic rules to overthrow what he saw as the fatalism of the theatre. Man, said Brecht, is in control of his destiny, not the gods. He wore boiler suits, smoked cigars habitually and was a stranger to soap. What a rebel!

To add to my impression of the poet, my first major theatre experience aged eighteen was playing Brecht’s Arturo Ui, a thinly disguised Adolf Hitler role, and I loved it. This was political theatre for the 20th Century: lively, funny and hard-hitting. I was sold.

Some 35 years later, I have had reason to reappraise my hero. I find his plays tricky to stage and I now know how he conducted his personal life, in particular his many extra-marital affairs. I am also fortunate to have met with StephenParker, who wrote a brilliant biography of the poet. Stephen’s book caused me to pause in my adulation of the man. He argues that Brecht’s work was informed significantly by his poor physical health and his inability to countenance any place in his life for a normal expression of feelings. I imagined a man with an obsessive need to be in control at all times and wondered how this might look staged.

I chose to focus on the years in which Brecht was exiled from Germany to Denmark from 1933. The story of this period in his life poses a number of questions. For instance, how do people cope with such a reversal of fortune? How can we still influence events from afar and, finally, how can one live free from feelings and the pull and push of a conscience?

The first draft, called “The Plum Tree”, was staged via Zoom to an audience of around 100 people. It went very well; feedback was positive and the cast were excellent, but I knew that I could make events clearer and more impactful. In this new draft, the many women in his life become a Greek Chorus, on stage throughout and a constant thorn in his side. I am keen to know if this has worked so...watch the little man’s behaviour carefully! and stay behind afterwards for a drink and a chat.

Soon enough you will be in Skovsbostrand, a quiet place by the sea in Fyn, Denmark. Ladies and gentlemen, our director Jodi, the cast and I would like to present to you “Svendborg.”

Neil Harris

Director-Jodi Gilchrist

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Location

The Aftermath

57-59 Wyndham Street

Hong Kong, HKI

Hong Kong

View Map

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