The Exception and the Rule

It can be tricky to make Brecht exciting. To simultaneously discourage an audience from suspending their disbelief whilst keeping them entertained can be a real theatrical tightrope. Unicycle Theatre Company succeed in conveying the message of the Exception and the Rule mostly in accordance with Brechtian technique, but they don’t manage to do so without approaching pedantry.

The plot follows a greedy merchant as he races across the fictional Yahi Desert to make a deal. During the journey he becomes increasingly paranoid of the motives of his guide and servant because he assumes that their minds must follow the selfish rules he understands. What transpires presents a hard-hitting depiction of injustice, inequality and downtrodden humanity.

Unicycle bring many fine touches to this play. The cast of four switch characters regularly, communicating an impression of the universality of human nature and linking well to the themes of fluidity of perspective. The basic set, consisting primarily of two step ladders, is also an innovative use of stage space and is used to demonstrate effectively both status and physical structures. Additionally, the actors themselves all bring solid performances. Characterization is clear and their singing is admirable.

The problem is in the pace - it always stays the same and the same is slow. Brecht favours the use of song and this troupe champion that, only it’s a deep, monotonous melody throughout. In parts this works, but when they’re singing about a frantic and exhausting race it seems out of place. Naturalistic acting also does not work advantageously with the lackadaisical gait of the performance. Brechtian theory argues that theatre should work continually to reiterate the idea that the performance is only a representation of life, rather than life itself. Naturalistic acting in The Exception and the Rule detracts from Brecht’s aim of distancing and audience self-reflection. Moreover, it ignores the potential for colourful characterisation that an element of non-naturalistic characterisation could bring to the stage.

Saying that, Unicycle do give a thought-provoking exploration of social morality. You may leave feeling unimpressed but you will certainly be pensive.

Since you’re here…

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Mama Biashara
Kate Copstick’s charity, Mama Biashara, works with the poorest and most marginalised people in Kenya. They give grants to set up small, sustainable businesses that bring financial independence and security. That five quid you spend on a large glass of House White? They can save someone’s life with that. And the money for a pair of Air Jordans? Will take four women and their fifteen children away from a man who is raping them and into a new life with a moneymaking business for Mum and happiness for the kids.
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Performances

The Blurb

Oil or water, which is worth more? Unicycle Theatre Company presents Bertolt Brecht's fantastic tale of the corruption of wealth, paranoia and perseverance. This play asks the question: are we really all in this together?

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