In the Centenary year of his birth, New Theatre is delighted to present Brecht's masterpiece. Written in Stockhom in 1939 and first performed in Zurich in 1941, the craftsmanship of Mother Courage established it as a totally theatrical work.
Mother Courage is epic theatre, in the sense, that it draws the attention of the audience, towards great societal issues, rather than individual conflicts. Based on events during the 30 year war (1618-1648) and completed in an era of Fascism and Nazism, Mother Courage is about propaganda and the monumental machine that generates it.
Brecht's command of style and mood is comparable to that of a poet. His writing for theatre follows the art of the epic poet, which is to present characters and events in such a way that the audience is free to watch an account of past events with critical detachment. The audience is presented with a demonstration of human behaviour in scientific spirit rather than in theatrical illusion. At the same time, Brecht emphasised the need for his plays to be produced with lightness and clarity and, above all, to be an enjoyable experience for the audience.
Always the subject of controversy, Brecht's authorship of his plays was recently questioned by American scholar John Fuegi. Fuegi's contention is not so much that Brecht was not involved in the writing of the plays, but rather than much of the work was actually done by his mistresses - women such as Elizabeth Hauptman, Ruth Berlau and Grete Steffin. However, the consummate theatrical craftsmanship demonstrated by Mother Courage certainly emphasises the half-truths in Fuegi's claim, at least in relation to this particular play.