Review of Baal, a story of an anguished man

A difficult show about a man who drinks more than he thinks, with a cast that exceeds all expectations.

Running for two nights as part of the On the Rocks student art festival, Baal, by Bertolt Brecht, is the story of an eccentric poet who rejects society and wanders through life drinking, taking multiple lovers, and moving down a path of self-destruction until the end. The piece a series of fragmented scenes with minimal transitions—it is the audience’s job to imagine what happens in the hours, days or even years that we will not see.

A flippant and dark sense of humour permeates the piece as Baal becomes more and more disillusioned with life and damages more and more people that he meets.

A seemingly difficult piece, I did not know what to expect from the cast, but any expectations I could have held were exceeded. Upon entrance to the theatre, it seemed as though the show had already begun without waiting for the audience.

The lights were already dimmed and Baal, played by Andrew Chalmers, was singing an introduction with the cast sitting in the background as the audience took their seats. The first scene introduces Baal’s rejection of society—a publisher offers to pay Baal for his poetry, but all Baal focuses on is the wine in front of him and his attraction to a nearby woman.

The show is filled with poetry and songs, presented as written by Baal, with an accompaniment of guitar, banjo, drums or vibraphone that changes throughout the show, setting a new tone with every scene change. Additionally along with every scene change, the new setting was projected in a handwritten style, as though we were looking into Baal’s personal journal.

Despite the difficulty I perceived from the nature of this piece, the entire cast performed absolutely wonderfully. The leading man Andrew Chalmers fully embodied Baal and his performance captured me for the entirety of the show along with his singing and his physical portrayal of Baal. I eagerly look forward to what this cast and crew assembles in the future and to what the rest of On the Rocks 2016 brings to St Andrews.

The sky is purple if you happen to be drunk.

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