Reviewing a play by Bertholt Brecht presents some immediate difficulties as, according to the author’s intentions, whether one enjoys the play means zilch, as he believed that theatre is intended to educate and provoke debate as opposed to entertainment. So saying I didn’t find the first half of the play particularly diverting would probably be water off a duck’s back for the German playwright.
Nonetheless, I found this production of How Much Is Your Iron quite imbalanced between the two halves, flawed, but with some strong performances and social issues intelligently conveyed.Dansen is an exceptionally dim pig farmer who becomes embroiled in a rural contract with a mysterious stranger - an intimidating enigma - who demands friendship and favours in exchange for dubious protection. While the actor playing The Stranger was impressively thuggish, his clenched jaw and serial killer eyes provoking genuine fear, I found Dansen’s over-exaggerated facial expressions highly irritating, though probably adequately caricatured to serve Brecht’s purposes. I suppose I can hardly blame the actor for despising the character, but Dansen’s hyperactive delivery and eye-popping made it quite tempting.
The second half was far more nuanced, mercifully focusing on Dansen’s neighbour Svendson and his Faustian pact to carry on selling his iron to the dubious Stranger, despite the mounting suspicion regarding the latter’s nefarious nature. The scene where the stranger pays Svendson with bloodied money and then goes off to batter another neighbour with the iron bar he has just procured is beautifully symbolic of Svendson’s culpability in the deeds of The Stranger and effectively transmits Brecht’s intended message.