Pushy Mothers

By Evans, Lloyd | The Spectator, August 13, 2011 | Go to article overview

Pushy Mothers


Evans, Lloyd, The Spectator


The Mother

The Scoop, until 4 September

Blue Surge

Finborough, until 27 August

Weird experiments in stone and glass clutter the South Bank opposite the Tower of London. The near-spherical City Hall looks like a speeding squash ball photographed at the moment of impact with a racquet. Around it stretches an acre of sloping flagstones, ideal for freestyle biking and skateboarding.

(Sure enough, both activities are vigorously suppressed by patrols of scowling guards. ) Nearby, the Scoop is a roofless amphitheatre fashioned from a crater of layered granite. It's an eerie and compelling sight, as if a divine whirlwind had ripped deep spirals out of a barren moonscape to produce a huge grooved funnel. As I took my place on a freezing seat, I sensed that the artificiality of the space seems to work against the warmth and intimacy it's supposed to generate.

The theatre hosts free performances of Brecht's The Mother until 4 September. This 1932 drama sketches out life in Russia during the 15 years leading up to the revolution.

The central character, Pelegea, is a turnipboiling peasant who joins the communists when her son gets into trouble for organising a strike. True to form, Brecht questions everyone's assumptions but his own. He portrays the revolutionaries as brave and brilliant pioneers intent on saving the world from a gang of dimwitted capitalist throwbacks. Every gesture is highly simplistic. A smug conservative sneers that ignorance is better than education. A strike-breaking cook waves his machete around angrily.

The Church is represented by sulky blackclad mystics who, for reasons not explained, speak in Welsh accents.

This is a listless, middle-of-the-road production with one very peculiar detail: the action is enlivened by bursts of song played by a Ukrainian serf with a James Blunt haircut and an electric guitar. Believe it or not the show is proving popular. And I found it oddly heartening to see so many happy, welldressed young Londoners - themselves a tribute to the victory of Marxism's enemies - applauding these extinct intellectual battles. Marxism used to be the salvation of humanity. Now it's just a fashion accessory.

Part of its appeal lay in the seductive conclusions it reached about philosophy and economics. People are good, it argued, and money is bad. Wrong both times, as it turned out. People are both good and bad. And money is neither. Money is human appetite given flexible expression. And when the Marxists set up an anti-money society that didn't abolish money, they created a self-deception that eventually forced every citizen to become a cheat and a hypocrite. …

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