What does it mean to be good in a society where the majority of your time, energy and money glitters like fairy gold, here one minute and gone the next? How can we help others when we can barely help ourselves? Despite the current social climate we find ourselves in, this is not a new issue. Brecht’s 80 year old play The Good Person of Szechwan explores this ongoing question with a mixture of humour and pathos at the Lyric Hammersmith, brought up to date by Nina Segal and directed by Anthony Lau.
When three gods arrive on earth on a mission to find one good person to prevent the apocalypse, water seller Wang takes them to Shen Te, a young kind hearted sex worker who is doing her best to survive. After she gives them a place to stay for the night she begs them to help her and they give her a life changing sum of money, which she uses to purchase a tobacco shop. However, this new found security is jeopardised by the people in her life who constantly take advantage of her good nature.
It would be hard to choose a favourite performance from the cast of The Good Person of Szechwan, even minor characters were immensely compelling and relatable in their portrayal. Leo Wan as Wang, the hapless but loveable water seller was certainly a crowd favourite, whilst Aidan Cheng in his role as Shen Te’s selfish love interest was charismatic as an antagonist foil to Wan’s character. Whilst the majority of the cast was humorous even in their petty badness, Ami Tredrea as both Shen Te and Shui Ta gave a more sobering performance as the play’s protagonist.
The play’s lighting and set design were perhaps one of the best things about the performance, excellent cast and script notwithstanding. Evoking a combination of adult playground and interactive light based art exhibition, designers Georgie Lowe and Jessica Hung Han Yun created a visually stimulating environment to keep the audience constantly engaged. In addition to this, the musical aspect of the performance was also highly entertaining.
The Good Person of Szechwan is at first, and even second and third, glance a comedy which leaves its audiences questioning what it means to be good, or even if it’s possible to try to be good in a world which seems to consistently crush any efforts to do so. Perhaps all we can do is try. Certainly, these are important questions to think over and going to watch this play is a good place to start.