Bertolt Brecht, an exiled German playwright, wrote Mother Courage in 1939 at the height of the Second World War. The play follows Mother Courage who runs a canteen business during the Thirty Years’ War. She travels with her children and a wagon cart selling things to the army. Her attempt to profit from the war leads to isolation and destitution. In the end, nobody wins, the only thing the characters are left with is a feeling of eternal suffering. Brecht brings to light the pointlessness of war, making Mother Courage the greatest anti war play of the century. He combines comedy, poetry and musical theatre to humour, puzzle and challenge us into re-thinking the concept of war.
The set consists of a concrete isle where most of the action happens and army netting in the wings, which gives a brutalist, war-like feel to the play. The raised platform behind the audience means that half the viewers have their back turned to it. This makes viewing the play somewhat uncomfortable, the strain to the neck did cause many to miss the action going on. The acting is varied in professionalism and the casting questionable – casting women to then behave like macho, alpha male soldiers makes the play feel inauthentic and phony. It would have been more interesting and threatening to use men. The costumes were also too clean, a bit of dirt on the boots and army clothing would have been better. All in all, Brecht’s play sends an important anti – war message but the few experiments with the casting and setting sadly did not work.