[FIRST PUBLISHED IN INPRESS MAGAZINE 05.05.2011]
I was a genius when I was nineteen, like Bertolt Brecht, truly ruly.
There was no universe I could not construct and populate as I wished within the unbound infinity of my mind. The only decision to be made was of which precise flavour would my legacy be infused. Every story I wrote was a bible, every song an anthem; each thought which bubbled to my lips was an idea previously unknown to a just-deserving world. I was Plato, I was Orwell – I was Elvis before the fried peanut butter.
Now; oh horror of now.
I have a tremendous collection of books. My coccyx screams each time I sit and I drag my broken foot into a position that causes least concern. The science, the study and the years of pouring text into my eyes: for nothing. The novels I have written: printed at Officeworks for the amusement of six friends. The songs: given to others, now forgotten. The woman at the shops has started making comments about me always buying the same rice crackers. I worry about what my torso will look like in five years’ time. I drink skinny cappuccinos now. Skinny fucking cappuccinos. Like I said, I have a tremendous collection of books, every one of them not written by me.
My point is Bertolt Brecht and that at nineteen he wrote his first play, Baal, and that he knew himself to be a mastermind. Every incredible and ridiculous element of that play is the direct result of the undilutable state of a young mind utterly legless at the taste of its own potential. Baal is a patchwork of problems and its latest Australian production, just finished at The Malthouse, and at the Sydney Theatre Co 1 May – 11 June, is a glorious and unruly testament to an uncracked ego.
|Baal. Image courtesy Sydney Theatre Co. Photograph by Jeff Busby.|
The central figure of Baal has been transposed from outsider poet to post-Indie troubadour. You can see him – convict bearded, sockless, convincing a Saturday cafe waiter that his bold indifference is but the shadow of a concrete brilliance. Baal writes songs and stands above a packed mattress of naked groupies; they are Brecht’s chorus, the inklings of his Epic Theatre to come.
This play, and particularly this adaptation, is an accurate and palpable vision of exactly how perceptive and how original a teenage Brecht must have imagined himself to be. Every line of dialogue is a forthright attempt at profundity. Though I’m sure its impact may have been felt a little in 1918, each scene’s exposed belly, breast and shrivelled willy is bringing Bertolt shocking delight as he stands giggling in the wings.
The polystyrene walls collapse, the rain buckets – a rolling cloud of cold air and water hits our audience. Baal this time, Thomas M. Wright, is faultless, he is a boob. Thomas lets us love Baal, he lets us think him a fool.
It’s eleven in the morning, I’m drinking beer, I’m looking at my books, wondering what it would take for them to fall.