Galy Gay is a porter living peacefully near a British military garrison in Kilkoa, when one day he decides to purchase a fish. On his way to the market, Galy gets caught up in the schemes of a group of ne'er do well soldiers who have burglarized a holy site. The soldiers convince Galy to replace their comrade, who has gone into hiding to avoid punishment for the vandalism. What began as a 10-minute trip to the market turns into a lifetime as the “soft-natured” Galy goes along with the soldiers’ plot, gains power and military glory, and loses his real identity in the process.
One of Brecht’s earliest plays, Man Equals Man is an excellent example of agitprop theatre - the “theatre of ideas” in support of communism - and also of Brecht’s unique expressionist style. While the characters on stage delight in and laud Galy Gay’s transformation from impoverished laborer to decorated and fearsome military general, the audience must ask themselves what the real cost is for Galy’s apparent “heroism,” and in what ways the spirits and identities of individuals are destroyed by the machines of war, colonialism and capitalism.
Brecht’s short play The Elephant Calf was intended to be an interlude to Man Equals Man, potentially to be played at the intermission. It features several of the same characters, including Galy Gay as the titular baby elephant. Although The Elephant Calf is not usually performed as an intermission piece in modern productions of Man Equals Man, the two plays are interlinked, with The Elephant Calf offering a farcical comment on the longer work.
Man Equals Man guide sections