The difficulties of establishing a Fabel

Problems with taking an orthodox Brechtian approach to Closer or: the trouble with the Fabel

Brecht is unambiguous to directors: they are not to direct the figures, but to realise the play’s Fabel . In doing so, they don’t fall into the trap of granting the figures too great an autonomy and suggest that they are in some way masters of their own fate. Instead, the Fabel notes the social conditions under which they act and the contradictions inherent in their actions. The Fabel offers a blueprint for the way a scene unfolds and the figures have to defer to it.

One of the aims of this production was to see how a play that apparently resisted Brechtian analysis might be submitted to a rehearsal process that deployed the orthodox Brechtian staging categories of Gestus, Haltung, Fabel and Arrangement. However, a major problem arose when constructing a Fabel for each scene.

On the one hand, scene 7 could be analysed clearly and offered the director a route that emphasized Larry’s mistaken belief in the power of money and the contradiction that emerged through his failure to appreciate money’s corrosive effect in the lap-dancing club. On the other hand, most of the other scenes tended to repeat action, such as seducing a new partner , ending an existing relationship or negotiating positions in a love triangle . While there is some social material in these Fabels, each Fabel fails to provide a map through the scene and doesn’t reflect a clear development of the action. As a result, a cornerstone of Brecht’s approach to staging drama was unavailable to this production, due to the nature of Closer itself.

Brecht, however, did not leave us in the lurch. By using inductive rehearsal, the director and cast were able to take a more forensic approach to revealing social tensions and political undercurrents that run through the play.