Socialist Worker

Brecht’s theatre unnerves and shakes its audience

by Christine Lewis
Issue No. 2341

New versions of three of Brecht’s most famous works—Mother Courage, Life of Galileo and The Threepenny Opera—will be performed in London, Salford and Stratford during February and March.

The German Marxist playwright and poet created these productions from the 1930s onwards. They were experimental, collaborative and fun. That’s why his work is still staged so often.

Brecht typically used stripped-down sets to jar the audience.

He argued that theatre ordinarily manipulated and put the audience to sleep when they needed to be critical observers.

He wanted to make audiences ask questions that couldn’t be resolved in the theatre. Then they would have to act in the world.

In Mother Courage and Her Children the audience needs to question the characters’ motives and even their names.

Actors break out of character and address the audience directly. They also speak stage directions.

In A Life of Galileo the audience is reminded that the world changes and they should too.

“In a modest house in Padua/As Galileo set out to prove/That the sun is fixed /And the earth is on the move.”

Brecht wrote The Threepenny Opera with fellow anti-fascist Kurt Weill. Its Ballad of Mack the Knife has made its anti-hero Macheath famous.

As he is about to be executed Macheath asks, “Who is the greater criminal—he who robs a bank or he who founds one?”

This production will be accompanied by free performances of the Mahagonny Songspiel, a sequence of songs that later inspired his opera, The Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny.

Mother Courage and Her Children 22 February–9 March, Quays theatre, The Lowry, Salford

A Life of Galileo Until 30 March, Swan Theatre, Stratford-Upon-Avon

The Threepenny Opera, 2 March, Royal Festival Hall

Mahagonny Songspiel, 2–3 March, Royal Festival Hall

Click here to subscribe to our daily morning email newsletter 'Breakfast in red'

Mobile users! Don't forget to add Socialist Worker to your home screen.