Review: Mother Courage and Her Children, Lakeside Arts Centre, by Alan Geary
Bertolt Brecht was a pretty bleak playwright. He invented "epic theatre" where there's no suspense; the audience is discouraged from emotional involvement with the play and is encouraged instead to approach it intellectually.
He sets this one between 1624 and 1638 during the Thirty Years War (1618-1648). Mother Courage and family are profiting from the conflict by accompanying an army with a hut on wheels from which she sells food to the soldiers.
The present production is more than up-dated: it's actually set in the future between 2024 and 2038, somewhat predictably we're told, to render it more accessible. Since the original central European setting is retained, the whole thing's confused; it would have been better to present the play exactly as Brecht conceived it.
The considerable music 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, something to the tune of a Christmas carol. It's a crowded and interesting set – the whole evening is visually pleasing – with the catering wagon on wheels, a tent, and the musical instrument space downstage-right.
Some of the acting is pedestrian, but Janet Greaves gives an energetic 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 (mistakenly) been claimed by some to be the greatest play of the twentieth century. This Blackeyed Theatre production offers no evidence for the truth of that claim.