Thursday 22 April 2010

Surabaya Johnny

I’m not particularly keen on Bertolt Brecht as a playwright, as a thinker, or as a man. I loath his politics and I distrust his didactic view of the theatre. I find plays like The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui banal, obvious and tiresomely unimpressive.

However, the work I do admire is that which emerged from his collaboration with Kurt Weil, the composer; musical dramas like The Rise and Fall of the City of Mahogany and above all The Threepenny Opera. And the impressive thing for me about these productions is not so much Brecht’s lyrics, as always pushing a clumsy political message, but Weil’s music. Still, the combination of words and music works well in wonderful songs like Mackie Messer and Seeräuberjenny.

But the Weil Brecht song that I like the most has to be Surabaya Johnny from Happy End.


  1. Is Brecht's philosphy more clumsy than the mining company's safety record before 24 miners die, or the oil company's assurances before the rig blew up and sent millions of gallons of crude on the gulf coast. those that control the means of production oppress the working class. where marx was wrong was that religion was the opiate, it is consumerism. Give them a 42" flat screen and access to 150 channels and the masses actually think their lives have improved. Meanwhile the wealth and power are further consolidated in the hands of the few. Clumsy, but oh so effective.

  2. Thanks, Dan, that's a very interesting observation.