Socialist Worker

Courageous production of Brecht’s anti-war classic Mother Courage and her children

by Rebecca Townesend
Issue No. 2625

Pauline McLynn shines as Mother Courage

Pauline McLynn shines as Mother Courage (Pic: David Lindsay)


Red Ladder Theatre Company, with the support of Leeds Playhouse, are putting on a new production of Bertolt Brecht’s Mother Courage and Her Children.

Written in 1939, the play is widely considered to be one of the greatest anti-war plays. We follow Mother Courage and her three children as she attempts to make a living by selling wares from her cart as the Thirty Years War drags on.

The director Rod Dixon said he wants the audience to “imagine the trauma and realities of displacement and forced migration”.

It’s an immersive experience, with actors and a “community chorus” moving the audience from scene to scene in the warehouse where the play is performed. Full use is made of this space, which generates a sense of both intimacy and distance in the harrowing final moments.

The cast is great and Pauline McLynn shines as a dominant, unpleasant, foul mouthed, sensual, witty and finally heart breaking Mother Courage.

Her daughter Kattrin, brilliantly played by Bea Webster, was described by Brecht as ‘dumb’.

Red Ladder challenges this description by having Webster—a deaf actor—break the rules of the play, and use signing to comment as well as interpret. Mother Courage is a discomfiting experience—not least because there aren’t enough seats for all the audience until the final scene.

It would be deeply trite to say it mimics the experience of war and displacement.

However, the cold and dirty conditions in which it is performed add a huge amount to the experience.

It’s a play that will leave the audience unsettled, but there’s plently to enjoy in this astonishing and unique production.


Nowhere to Call Home: Climate Change and Forced Migration

Climate refugees from Bangladesh and the Arctic feature in this project by the Environmental Justice Foundation and playwright Ursula Rani Sarma.

The curators wanted to focus on individuals affected by climate change because people are harder to ignore than statistics.

Audio dramatisations will be used to describe climate refugees’ experiences, in what promises to be a powerful element of the show.

It’s part of the Seasons for Change programme, which is curated to inspire urgent action on climate change.

Lyttelton Foyer, National Theatre, London SE1 9PX. Available to watch 26 October to 2 November bit.ly/NowhereHome

22 July

Netflix’s latest feature tells the story of Norway’s 2011 attacks which claimed the lives of 77 people.

Nazi terrorist Anders Breivik attacked a camp organised by the youth division of the Norwegian Labour Party in a deadly rampage.

The film—premiered at September’s Venice film festival—tells the tragic story in three parts.

Also on UK release this month is U-July 22, a Norweigan language feature about the attacks and their aftermath.

Out now on Netflix.com. Directed by Paul Greengrass

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