Mother Courage and her Children by Bertold Brecht
Studio 31, 14th-18th November 2017, 7.30pm
Tickets £12, Concessions £9
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The depressing thing about Brecht is that his plays never go out of date. At a time when Western governments stand accused of propping up corrupt dictatorships with a lucrative arms trade, his black comedic take on the commodification of war and the drubbing the little man takes, whoever’s in charge, couldn’t seem more ripe for an airing.
And isn’t that just exactly what Brecht would have wanted us to think? Ever one for political provocation rather than rapt escapism, he’d probably be very pleased with that reaction.
Lee Hall’s translation of that script is witty, bawdy and vibrant, and as a charismatic, foot-stomping and fickle character, Mother Courage wears a thick skin of bitter wisecracks to protect her from the horrors of war: sure she’s a caricature, but one you can relate to.
Mother Courage and Her Children is one of Brecht’s most well known and politIcally potent anti-war plays. Set during the 30 Years War, the story follows Anna Frieling who is nicknamed Mother Courage, as she travels through Europe over a period of 12 years.
During this time she loses all three of her children, Kattrin, Eilif and Swisscheese through their affiliation with the war. This tragedy is juxtaposed with Mother Courage’s career ambition and profiteering from the war as a trader and canteen woman.
Our setting for the story is still the Thirty Years War (1618-1648), but pushed forward to an unspecified future time. Updating the setting makes the production more instantly understandable, using a visual and textual language to which we already relate.
Brecht’s story is based on Grimmelshausen’s novel of the same name from 1670. Mother Courage was written later on in his career, in the late 1930’s, although it was not produced until 1941, in Zurich, where it was an immediate success, despite the looming Nazi invasion. There are many parallels to be drawn between the conflict within which the play is set, and the rapidly escalating conflict that was taking place whilst Brecht was writing. It is considered as a powerful commentary on war with strong undercurrents of meaning.