"These are nothing but the worries of every good person."Johannes Hjorth

Plays in Cambridge are often far too easily complimented as being ‘immersive’. But the Good Soul of Szechuan was an experience truly deserving of this praise: a bold and unconventional production which the audience truly are part of. Actors and spectators were often indistinguishable, sharing the same spaces and both becoming equally part of the questionably separable Szechuan and Cambridge. This only served to reinforce how relevant Brecht’s exploration of love, capitalism and morality remains today.

Following the cryptic instructions on the event, I had congregated with similarly bemused punters on Green Street at the appointed time. The show had already begun outside, highlighting from the outset how blurred the worlds of the play and the audience were to become. Cycles whizzed past, Ted Loveday made an unscripted cameo, and Trinity students looked on in confusion as we were led into the venue and deeper into the world of Szechuan. Both this sequence and the rest of the play made creative use of all the available features that the unusual performance space provided, meaning the experience of the audience (which had been meticulously planned and successfully executed) was unlike anything you’d get at a typical ADC or Corpus show.

The play itself had been carefully updated: Brecht’s parable is played out in a nightclub, to the beat of italo-pop and under disco lighting. The plot concerns Shen Te, who struggles to remain altruistic in a world which seeks to put a monetary value on love and care, forcing her to protect herself through the creation of a hard-nosed alter ego, Shui Ta. The story is told masterfully by a strong cast, who take to the unusual production and difficult roles with vigour. Joe Spence portrays both sides of the main character with deftness and depth, gaining his audience’s pity as the kind prostitute and its discomfort as her cruel other side. Zoé Barnes also stood out as the itinerant water seller Wang, helping to guide the audience through the plot’s intrigues and schemes.

Given the boldness of its vision, it is unsurprising that the play was not without its faults. Having the audience read lines came across at times as clunky and unsubtle, whilst an impromptu disco midway through the show was perhaps overlong and took momentum away from the plot. That said, this production was successful, despite (and perhaps because of) its refusal to adhere to the tired norms of Cambridge theatre. It thoughtfully questioned the interaction of money and morals in our own world, upon which the world of the play was so creatively overlaid. Anyone looking for a ground-breaking and truly immersive experience would be well advised to join the confused-looking group on Green Street at 9.30 over the next three nights.

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