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Reviews Loren Kruger. Post-Imperial Brecht: Politics and Performance, East and South. Cambridge Studies in Modern Theatre. Cambridge: Cambridge UniversityPress,2004. Pp.xiv+ 399. $85.00. Krugers book is primarily an exploration ofBertolt Brechts theater in the former German Democratic Republic (GDR), or East Germany, and ofthe influence of Brecht's theater in South Africa. By cutting across the more usual division between East andWest on the one hand and North and South on the other, Kruger hopes to gain new insights into constellations that were frequendy overlooked during the Cold War. In contrast to the continued privileging ofthe "West" and the "North" at the expense of the "East" and the "South," Kruger intends, with her demonstration of previously hidden connections between the two latter terms, to show the ways in which "second" and "third" world cultures influenced each other. Simultaneously, she deconstructs notions of western or northern primacy in developing and aiding the culture ofthe East and/or South. The lines of influence between South Africa and East Germany ran in both directions, and in many ways they sidestepped both the United States and the Federal Republic of (West) Germany. Although she never makes entirely explicit her reasons for doing so, Kruger limits her approach to Brecht primarily to the Lehrstück, or learning play, that Brecht developed in the late 1920s and early 1930s—plays such as Der Jasager (He Who Said Yes) and Der Neinsager (He Who Said No), and especially the explicitly Communist play Die Maßnahme (The Measures Taken). Kruger sees these plays as Brecht's most advanced dieatrical work, both politically and aesthetically . Because these plays and the debates about them are still not particularly well known in the English-speaking world—sometimes even among Brecht scholars—it would have been helpful ifKruger had devoted at least a little space to explainingher reasons for considering these plays to be the pinnacle ofBrecht's artistic and theoretical output. Kruger does a goodjob ofshowing how Brechts attack on the separation between audience and spectators prefigures and 243 244Comparative Drama anticipates much later developments in progressive theater practice, such as Augusto Boal's transformation of "the spectator into a spect-actor and social actor" (25-26). However just as Brecht the man, the playwright, and the theorist continues to be controversial, so too his radical Lehrstücke remain contested territory. Kruger's acceptance of Rainer Steinweg's 1969 interpretation and valuation of the Lehrstücke is perfectly valid; however she ignores the Lehrstücke as a scholarly battleground,including the various critiques that have been made of Steinweg over the last two decades, particularly by Klaus-Dieter Krabiel. Kruger's analysis and explanation ofLehrstücktheory is extremelyuseful and enlightening, but it would have been even more so if, instead of taking the status of the Lehrstücke and their accompanying theory for granted, she had actually explained and defended it. Nevertheless, English-language readers will be hard-pressed to find better accounts of Lehrstück theory and practice, including the performance history of Die Maßnahme, than in this book. Kruger ferrets out little-known performances ofthe play and demonstrates, among otfier things, that the 1997 production at the Berliner Ensemble (BE) was by no means the first German-language performance in the postwar period. Kruger is critical of that production as a kind ofmuseum piece lacking the political radicalism that Brecht had intended; she also dismisses RobertWilsons production ofanother ofBrecht's Lehrstücke, Der Ozeanflug (The Ocean Flight), at the Berliner Ensemble in the same year as aesthetically beautiful but politically quiescent. She even calls Heiner Müllers 1995 production of Brecht's Der aufhaltsame Aufstieg des Arturo Ui (The Resistable Rise ofArturo Ui) at the BE, particularly in Martin Wuttke's adaptation , "an entertaining but essentially toothless gangster-show" (193). In general , Kruger has a keen appreciation ofthe way that the theory and practice of theater interact. She is interested not just in Brecht's work in and around the year 1930 but also in the ways that this work has had an impact on subsequent theater practitioners, including Heiner Müller in the GDR and Athol Fugard in South Africa. She pays close attention...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1936-1637
Print ISSN
0010-4078
Pages
pp. 243-247
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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