MOTHER COURAGE AND HER CHILDREN
by Bertolt Brecht (translated by Lee Hall.
Blackeyed Theatre Tour to 1 December 2012.
Runs 2hr 30min One interval.
Review: Alan Geary: 13 November at Lakeside Arts Centre Nottingham.
An unsatisfactory adaptation of an over-rated play.
Bertolt Brecht was a bleak playwright. He it was who came up with “epic theatre” where there’s no suspense; the audience is discouraged from emotional involvement with the play, and is encouraged instead to approach it solely from an intellectual perspective. Pretty joyless stuff.
He sets this one between 1624 and 1638, during the Thirty Years War (1618-1648). Mother Courage and family are earning a crust from the chaos of that conflict by following one of the armies around Europe, pushing a hut on wheels, from which she sells food to the soldiers.
The present production, directed for Blackeyed Theatre by Tom Neill, is more than up-dated: it’s actually set in the future between 2024 and 2038. Somewhat predictably, we’re told this makes it more accessible – what’s so inaccessible about the seventeenth century, or accessible about a decade or two hence? Since the original Central European location is retained, the total package is confused. It would have been better to present the play exactly as Brecht conceived it.
The large musical component is also confused. It’s a mix of sub-punk, rock ’n roll, flat and discordant sounds faintly suggestive of Kurt Weill, and, near the end, a number done to the tune of a Christmas carol. It’s a crowded and interesting set though – the evening is visually pleasing – with the catering wagon on wheels, a tent, and the musical instrument space downstage-right.
Some of the acting is a trifle pedestrian, but Janet Greaves delivers an energetic and sympathetic account of the central character, and J J Henry is good as the Padre.
Written in 1939, Brecht’s Mother Courage and Her Children has (surely mistakenly) been claimed by some to be the greatest play of the twentieth century. This production offers no evidence whatsoever to back up that claim.
Swiss Cheese: Jacob Addley.
Mother Courage: Janet Greaves.
Kattrin/Yvette: Georgina Hall.
Chaplain: J J Henry.
Eilif: Tristan Pate.
Director: Tolm Neill.
Designer: Victoria Spearing.
Lighting: Alan Valentine.
Composer: Ron McAllister.
Musical Director: Ellie Verkerk.
Costume: Jenny Lethbridge.