A director who sells out theatres in Moscow, Yury Butusov’s modern-dress version of Brecht’s parable play is punchy and vigorous, with a no-holds-barred performance by Alexandra Ursulyak at its core.

In search of a good person, the gods come to earth and are won over by kindhearted sex worker Shen Te. Her reward is money to open a small tobacco shop where she seeks to turn her life around. But when freeloaders overrun her business and exploit her generosity, she invents a non-existent cousin, ruthless and pragmatic enough to thwart everyone’s schemes.

For her role as the opposing cousins, Ursulyak won a Golden Mask Theatre Award in Russia. She heads an ensemble of actors and musicians who perform Paul Dessau’s songs in the original German, their translation cranking up their political potency. With a focus on the duality of human nature and survival in unstable circumstances, the production is stripped-down, with nods to cabaret and the grotesque.