In this article David Barnett explores the Berliner Ensemble's production in 1956 of Synge's classic The Playboy of the Western World. Although it was directed by Peter Palitzsch and Manfred Wekwerth, Bertolt Brecht, the company's co-founder, loomed large in planning and rehearsal. This staging serves as an example of how a politicized approach to theatre-making can bring out relationships, material conditions, and power structures that the play's production history has often ignored. In addition, Barnett aims to show how Brechtian methods can be applied more generally to plays not written in the Brechtian tradition and the effects they can achieve. David Barnett is Professor of Theatre at the University of York. He is the author of Heiner Müller's ‘The Hamletmachine’ (Routledge, 2016), A History of the Berliner Ensemble (Cambrige, 2015) and Brecht in Practice: Theatre, Theory, and Performance (Bloomsbury, 2014). His recent AHRC-funded ‘Brecht in Practice: Staging Drama Dialectically’, led to a Brechtian production of Patrick Marber's Closer, and he offers theatre-makers and teachers workshops on using Brecht's method on stage and in the classroom.