Mother Courage reviewed

After a fantastic opening weekend, Digital Reporter Kristy Stott reviews Mother Courage and her Children

Set in the backdrop of the Thirty Years’ War Mother Courage tells the story of a mother who tries to protect all three of her children as she battles to make a profit out of the war. She travels alongside various armies selling them food and any other items that they should need from her red canteen wagon, the only symbol of her survival.

The plot sounds very bleak and hopeless doesn’t it? And those who are familiar with Brecht will know that this is exactly as he intended it to be. However, this translation by Tony Kushner teamed with director Chris Honer’s vision succeeds in making this Brechtian classic entirely relevant for a contemporary audience. Honer manages to preserve Brecht’s epic theatre structure masterfully while at the same time giving the play a timeless feel. This production could be set in any era and in any war torn country hinting that the themes of Mother Courage are still relevant today across all societies and cultures.

The hopelessness of the broken world that we see through the minimalist set design and the costumes is splintered by Brecht’s dark humour and the outstanding cast who deliver it using a variety of different accents. The snappy language is at times hilariously crude and the cast perform with vigour and impeccable timing, often playing out directly to the audience.

The play really benefits from Greg Palmer’s new eclectic musical score where every actor steps out of their role and contributes to each song, keeping in faith with Brecht’s staging theories and preventing the audience from becoming too familiar with the characters. I could hear some of the audience’s toes a-tapping to the Country and Western style song sang by the Chaplain as all of the actors got involved playing guitars, harmonicas while others clicked their fingers.

Eve Polycarpou is outstanding and highly credible as Mother Courage who is incorrigible to the end – we understand that she has to survive the best way that she can and we feel the contradiction between her trade and being a mother. The play opens with a commanding and tuneful Mother Courage, followed by her children, who are pulling her wagon. By the end of the play we see Mother Courage aged and dishevelled, having to pull her wagon on her own. She looks weary and with the help of the revolve appears to be moving backwards rather than forwards. With this close to the play, I felt exhausted and unsettled too – possibly by the despair of Mother Courage’s hopeless plight and the ravages of the broken world that she inhabits. And also possibly because this production succeeds in forcing us to reflect and judge our own reality, struggles and conflicts and in a manner that Brecht and his epic theatre would have commended.

Mother Courage and Her Children continues at The Lowry until Sat 9 Mar 2013. You can book tickets online here or from The Lowry Box Office on 0843 208 6010.