AT: The Decision A: Bertolt Brecht (with Slatan Dudow, Elisabeth Hauptmann, and others) Pf: 1930, Berlin Pb: 1931 Tr: 1957 G: Pol. drama in 8 scenes; German prose with songs S: China, 1920s C: 4m or f playing 12m, chorusThree agitators are called on to explain to a Communist Party tribunal (the Control Chorus) why they executed a comrade during their mission to infiltrate Communism into China. They demonstrate the errors he committed. The Young Comrade, seeing coolies suffering from terrible conditions as they pull a boat up the river, steps forward and gives them assistance, alleviating their discontent and so delaying the revolution. By intervening when a worker is arrested, he endangers the success of a strike. Unable to negotiate amiably with an exploitative capitalist, he ruins the team's chances of using him to further their aims. By attempting to spark off a premature revolution, he endangers the whole mission by revealing the identity of the agitators. Fleeing from the authorities, it is agreed – by the Comrade as well – that he must die and be thrown in a lime pit to obliterate his identity. The Control Chorus approves of the measures taken.
AT: The Decision A: Bertolt Brecht (with Slatan Dudow, Elisabeth Hauptmann, and others) Pf: 1930, Berlin Pb: 1931 Tr: 1957 G: Pol. drama in 8 scenes; German prose with songs S: China, 1920s C: 4m or f playing 12m, chorus
It would be reassuring to imagine that this brutally Stalinist Lehrstück (‘teaching play’) was intended by Brecht to debate the extreme behaviour that a desirable revolution requires. But there is no debate; it is accepted that there is only one way of dealing with the Young Comrade (Why? How will his death help the others to escape?). More important than its unpleasant political content, The Measures Taken, according to Brecht, pointed to the future of theatre: at the premiere, with music by Hanns Eisler, there was no audience, the 3,000 workers present forming the Control Chorus, in an anticipation of Augusto Boal's concept of the ‘spect-actor’.