Mother Courage and Her Children

Tue 31st January – Sat 4th February 2012


Marion Pragt

at 11:13 on 1st Feb 2012



Although Bertolt Brecht's Mother Courage and Her Children is often regarded as an anti-war play, this performance succeeds in showing the play’s ambivalence. The benefits of war for Mother Courage’s (Megan Roberts) small business and the perils of peace when no armies are around to buy her goods are stressed and “Retail!” is Courage’s battle cry. Yet at the same time, while on her wagon, following the armies of different countries and Christian denominations in the desolate landscape of the Thirty Years’ War, Mother Courage comes to realise that war is a curse too.

Kat Griffiths brings alive the character of Kattrin, expressing the thoughts and emotions of Mother Courage’s mute daughter. Unsullied and charming in her innocence, she endears the public, and enrages her mother, by imitating femme fatale Yvette, played with flair by Jennie King. It is also in her relation to Kattrin that the ambivalence of Mother Courage’s character becomes clear. On the one hand protective, once even singing a lullaby to her, Courage is painfully absent as well. Other characters blame her for being too busy making business deals to save her daughter’s life, and she pays for Kattrin’s funeral in a cold and almost unfeeling way.

Indeed, Megan Roberts admirably shows Mother Courage’s different characteristics, from the keen, funny and talkative businesswoman to the mother who loses all her children, causing the audience to laugh and shudder, while always leaving them something to think about.

The show succeeds in achieving an admirable balance between drama and humour with some of the songs, characters and dialogues providing a bit of light-heartedness during this nearly three hour long play, while strengthening the performance’s poignancy at the same time. Although occasionally the singing was not synchronous and singers were sometimes inaudible because of the accompanying music, which might have been due to this being the opening night, the use of live music adds much to the play’s expressiveness.

The use of a voice-over to announce lapses in time between the scenes, the changes in props and scenery that become part of the play’s action and the interval in which the lead singer addresses the audience directly are other moments when one becomes aware one is watching a Brechtian play.

With different actors standing out, the cast as a whole working very well together and the smooth interplay of acting and music, everything came together splendidly. Nikki Moss deserves great compliments, both for her directing and sound design. One should certainly look forward to her presence on the Cambridge American Stage Tour this coming Summer.

In the end, Mother Courage realises courage lies in carrying on. That, then, is all that is left to her. She has to carry the wagon on her own now, with the sole consolation that it will not be so heavy, as there is not much left inside it.

When in the final scene all actors come on stage and join in a last song, this wonderfully directed and acted play comes to an impressive ending. With acting and music, drama and humour so closely interwoven, it is a truly brilliant performance.


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