Performing Brecht

Performing Brecht

Performing Brecht

Performing Brecht

Synopsis

Performing Brecht is an unprecedented history of the productions of Brecht's plays in Britain over forty years. Margaret Eddershaw surveys all aspects of Brecht in performance, from his methodologies to his place in postmodernist theatre and beyond.She focuses on key productions by directors including George Devine, Sam Wanamaker, William Gaskill, Howard Davies, John Dexter and Richard Eyre. Eddershaw also provides three in-depth case studies of productions in the 1990s, incorporating her own exclusive access to the rehearsals and in-depth interviews with directors and performers. The case studies are:* The Good Person of Sechuan , directed by Deborah Warner and starring Fiona Shaw;* Mother Courage , directed by Philip Prowse and starring Glenda Jackson;* The Resistable Rise of Arturo Ui , directed by Di Trevis and starring Antony Sher

Excerpt

The aim of this book is to examine how Brecht’s ideas on the function of theatre and dramatic performance, his own practice and productions and a changing view of the meaning of the plays themselves, have influenced and shaped productions of his work in Britain over the last forty years. An attempt is made to analyse how, why and with what results practitioners in this country have sought to understand the varying pulls of aesthetics, politics and dramatic theory in their presentations of the Brecht texts. While trying to avoid suggesting that there is a definitive ‘model’, this book asks what has been and what is the practice of British Brecht, and what should or might it be? The account focuses on the challenges and problems set by Brecht’s dramaturgy, theatrical theory and politics for British practitioners working within a very different context and set of theatrical traditions from those that Brecht himself enjoyed and helped subvert.

In 1969, Peter Brook wrote in The Empty Space: ‘Brecht is the key figure of our time, and all theatre work today at some point starts from or returns to his statements and achievement’ (Brook, 1972, p.80). Twenty-five years later this is still partly true, though a fact probably less widely acknowledged than it was in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Today, however, Brecht’s plays and his theatrical theories are studied for British school examinations, and the term ‘Brechtian’, while it might be variously interpreted and inappropriately applied to mere borrowings of his staging techniques, is readily used by or known to anyone even only mildly interested in theatre. (Indeed, as the reader will note here, ‘Brechtian’ is a tautologous adjective that is difficult to avoid.) But there has always been, and there remains today, an uncertainty about the relationship between Brecht and British theatre.

Initially, when Brecht’s work was first beginning to be known in Britain, there was the traditional British xenophobia to overcome, not to mention a particularly strong resistance to things Teutonic, a result, obviously, of the experiences of two world wars. The reasons why Brecht might, indeed, have remained complete anathema are many. As a German writer he was seen (as he often still is) as characteristically ‘heavy’, boring and lacking in a sense of humour, or at least irony - in fact the kind of playwright he himself deplored in his own, rational theatre. Furthermore, he was a Marxist and thus his ideas were (and are) unlikely to be suited to the mainly bourgeois institution of British theatre and theatregoers.

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