It may seem strange to choose Closer by Patrick Marber as a play to be produced using Brechtian methods. This is because the play doesn’t appear to have much to do with politics. On the contrary, it tracks, over twelve scenes, the tangled love lives of the four figures: Dan, Alice, Larry and Anna. They fall in and out of love with each other without much reference to their times or the society in which they live.
However, it would be difficult to mistake their behaviour for metropolitan British people in, say, the 1950s. There is thus clearly a relationship between how they behave, what they think about each other and both their geographical and historical placement (London in the 1990s). A Brechtian production seeks to expose that relationship and ask the audience what could be changed in order to avoid some of the problems of the play.
These problems are based on the way men and women relate to and value each other. The swift shifts between initiating a relationship, cheating on one’s partner, ending the relationship and starting up with someone else reflect a self-centredness and disregard for others. These qualities are closely associated with certain social and political changes that took place in the UK during the premiership of Margaret Thatcher (1979-90). Thatcher (in)famously asserted to a magazine in 1987 that there was no such thing as society, just individuals and families. Her political philosophy suggested that we get on in life through our own efforts, regardless of others, and this type of behaviour is clearly evident in the figures of Closer.
A Brechtian production seeks to expose the relationships between individual and society. Closer offers a challenge to politicized performance because it offers precious little material on the social, political or historical contexts of the action. And this was the primary reason for engaging with the play. We saw our task as politicizing a play that, to all appearances, was unpolitical.