Mother Courage and Her Children is an adaptation of Bertolt Brecht’s 1939 anti-war musical, presented at the Edinburgh Fringe by Theatre San TuoQi.
A cast of seven actors performs a multitude of roles, telling the story through movement to music, with no spoken dialogue in the piece at all.
The story closely follows the original, with some changes which serve to add an even greater sense of tragedy to the overall narrative.
The company utilises some techniques which will be familiar to those who have studied Brecht’s methods of theatre making. The use of an empty stage and actors changing costume elements on the side of the performance area both speak to the closeness of this adaptation.
Brecht’s works are perhaps most well known for their use of scene separating title cards, to indicate what will happen next, in an attempt to deliberately avoid or minimise audience empathy.
This technique is not used here, meaning the audience is placed at less of a psychological distance from the narrative. Rather, the audience is required to delineate scenes for themselves – a task which is sometimes clear, at other times more uncertain.
The use of music is highly effective, creating the different levels of tension inherent within the narrative.
The Brechtian use of props is supplemented here with masks reminiscent of traditional Chinese Theatre practices, and this production is a very well constructed merger of Brechtian and Chinese techniques.
Performed with sensitivity, heart and incredible technical skill, this is a beautiful production which enforces once again Brecht’s message of the total destruction and devastation of war.
Featured Image Credit: Edinburgh Fringe/Fringe Society