Bertolt Brecht

Bertolt Brecht

Bertolt Brecht

Bertolt Brecht


Routledge Performance Practitioners is a series of introductory guides to the key theatre-makers of the last century. Each volume explains the background to and the work of one of the major influences on twentieth- and twenty-first-century performance.

Bertolt Brecht is amongst the world's most profound contributors to the theory and practice of theatre. His methods of collective experimentation and his unique framing of the theatrical event as a forum for aesthetic and political change continue to have a significant impact on the work of performance practitioners, critics and teachers alike. This is the first book to combine:

  • an overview of the key periods in Brecht's life and work
  • a clear explanation of his key theories, including the renowned ideas of Gestus and Verfremdung
  • an account of his groundbreaking 1954 production of The Caucasian Chalk Circle
  • an in-depth analysis of Brecht's practical exercises and rehearsal methods

As a first step towards critical understanding, and as an initial exploration before going on to further, primary research, Routledge Performance Practitioners are unbeatable value for today's student.

Meg Mumford is a lecturer in Theatre and Performance Studies at The University of New South Wales, Australia. She has published widely on the subject of Brecht's theatre and contemporary appropriations of his theory and practice.



Bertolt Brecht (1989—1956) would have been wary of any introduction that presented him as a fixed monolith, rather than acknowledging that there were ‘almost as many Brechts as there were people who knew him’ (Lyon 1980: 205). For he was an ever-changing lover of flux who came to believe that we are contradictory beings, constantly modified by our interactions with the social and material world, and by the eye of each new beholder. And there have been many beholders, each with their own stance on this contentious subject. Some describe him as Europe’s most famous Marxist playwright, director and theatre theorist. Or, Germany’s answer to Shakespeare, but with a political twist. Others regard him as a genius who, despite his unfortunate political credo, remained a poet of eternally suffering and enduring humanity. Given that Brecht developed a respect for Marx, Shakespeare and fame he might not have objected to two of these descriptions. But it is this writer’s position that Brecht had little time for the idea of eternal suffering.

One of the aims of this chapter is to capture the changeful nature of Brecht’s political attitudes and artistic practice and to locate some of its sources. These include his acute responsiveness to Europe’s tumultuous political landscape between the end of the nineteenth . . .

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