Nepali Times
How to be good

Written in various European countries and in the United States while he ran away from Nazi Germany, Bertolt Brecht's The Good Person of Szechwan has a universal feel to it. On April 22, Studio 7 will open the play for this season at Hotel Vajra.

Set in fictional China, The Good Person of Szechwan is about three gods on a quest to find at least one good person on earth. Ironically, a young prostitute turns out to be that one person but even she asks herself: "How can I be good when everything is so expensive?" The gods learn how difficult it is to be good to oneself and to others in such an unjust world.

A Brecht masterpiece, it is a modern parable posing serious questions while using heightened comic characters. It addresses basic human issues such as: how to be a good person in an imperfect, money-centred, class-divided society.

"This is a situation found everywhere in the world especially in the so-called third world," says Sabine Lehmann, director of play, "every year here at Studio 7 we try to find a play relevant to the situation of the country. I believe in using theatre as an eye-opener and at the same time, a place to enjoy. It is a tool to realise something about life and the situation that we live in."

The Good Person of Szechwan is an amalgam of music, comedy, drama and politics. It uses the technique of epic theatre with alienation, arousing the process of reflection and critical examination of the events on stage by the audience as well as by the actor. This process of thinking is in all of Brecht's plays, always accompanied by a good sense of humour.

Brecht had a clear attitude towards the events of his time, yet the situations he portrays are of lasting truth, as they seek to show the point at which the world or the human attitude is to be altered. One of Brecht's main achievements was to revolutionise a prevailing style of theatre, that created mere passive consumers, intoxicated by more and more illusions.

He formulated the theory and practice of a theatre that aroused a process of reflection and critical examination by the actor and the audience of the events shown on the stage. This new theatrical style is known as 'Epic Theatre' with the use of the alienation method and a new style of music, all to help the actor and the audience to stand aside and observe with discrimination all aspects of life portrayed. Brecht achieved a 'Total Theatre', full of provocation always raising questions in search of the truth.

"That does not mean it is dry theatre without emotions. The audience is moved but able to make judgments. You can laugh, cry but also think about what is being said, of a solution if possible, they get thinkingly involved," says Lehmann who founded Studio 7 in 1981 as an international actors' ensemble based in Kathmandu. Every April since then, it has staged a production which Lehmann herself directs.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)