“I won’t let you spoil my war for me. Destroys the weak, does it? Well, what does peace do for’em, huh? War feeds its people better.”– Mother Courage.
The bloody battlefields of the Thirty Years’ War provide the setting for Brecht’s astonishing drama, Mother Courage and Her Children. Hailed as one of the greatest plays of the 20th Century, it tells the tale of a tireless entrepreneur of the battlefield and her unswerving determination to make a profit from the dirty business of war even as it threatens her children.
The Library Theatre’s production of Mother Courage and Her Children runs at The Lowry, Quays Theatre till 9th March (the theatre’s temporary home whilst its new one is being built). Director Chris Honer pays tribute to practitioner Bertolt Brecht techniques by making sure the audience are made aware this is a live theatre production-using hand held mics for songs rather than hidden radio mics, and having the musicians in full view onstage-all of which dispel the magic of theatre, something Brecht was keen to do.
In the main there is a strong cast here expertly headed by Eve Polycarpou playing the title role of Mother Courage. Polycarpou injects a boldness and brassiness to the character displaying a range of emotions throughout. As Mother Courage is in all 12 scenes this is a huge role to undertake and she really carries you through the epic 140mins duration.
The female cast members really shine – other noteable performances coming from Amelia Donkor as Mother Courage’s mute daughter Kattrin and Natalie Grady as sharp-tongued prostitute Yvette. Donker has no lines but manages to convey a million words to the audience through her facial expressions, which deliver a passionate display of frustration and innocent demeanor.
Grady delights as Yvette giving the character a broad Yorkshire accent that complements her witty dialogue. The audience is swiftly taken with Grady and she produces some brilliant comedy moments with her larger than life version of a lady of the night.
This new translation is by Oscar and BAFTA nominated playwright Tony Kushner (who most recently wrote the screenplay for Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln). Kushner brings a freshness to Brecht’s words and makes it an easier text to comprehend. Judith Croft’s stark set highlights the bleakness of the war keeping its design to a minimum – for the main there are just 2 wooden towers structures and Mother Courage’s precious cart which is stood on top of a revolving stage area.
Music is of huge importance in Brecht’s plays and this production is no different-the original score by Greg Palmer complements the action and is both melodic and witty at times.
My one criticism would be that the final scenes were a little lost due to the weak delivery of some crucial lines by supporting cast members. This led to a lack of tension and let down some of the superior acting that had preceded it.
On the whole a very enjoyable and accessible production.
Mother Courage and Her Children at The Lowry, Quays Theatre
Fri 22 Feb – Sat 9 Mar 2013