There are some fine performances in this production.
There are some fine performances in this production. Josie Lawrence as Mother Courage engages with her physical presence and facial expressions, together with her ability to deliver comic lines as skilfully as ironic ones. She moves throughout the limited space with great agility, creating the dramatic energy required to believe that she is crossing countries for the ignoble motive of profiteering. Brecht’s intention to highlight the contradiction within characters is clearly portrayed by Lawrence as she demonstrates Mother Courage’s allegiance to war and profit conflicting with the love she has for her family.
In another fine performance, Phoebe Vigor as Kattrin encapsulates the frustration and desperation of war. Her versatility is demonstrated in contrasting scenes; from mimicking a prostitute in red shoes to beating a drum to save a town from the enemy. As a mute her attempts at communicating are compelling and passionate; the sounds strangulated but strangely beautiful and hopeful.
Ben Fox as the cook and Laura Checkley as Yvette the prostitute provide much comedy through their interplay with Mother Courage. These exchanges serve to draw out her the selfishness and her unsavoury motivations.
Overall the design elements of this production are successful and while Brecht did not approve of special effects this production could have done with a few more. Mother Courage’s song in cabaret style with the surprise addition of red lighting caused a clearly discernible sigh of approval from the audience. Elsewhere silhouettes, though used rather sparingly, provided a refreshing visual change to the deliberate dreariness of the wartime setting. Live music and songs succeeded in affecting the mood and flow of the production demanded by the epic structure.
Director Hannah Chisssick uses traverse staging, which has the advantage of drawing the audience closely into the detail of the acting. However, this choice limited the possibilities of using multi-media devices to enhance the narration, which failed to achieve any impact. There was a further limitation to the choice of using traverse staging. Only one side of the audience could see the upper balcony where the live band was situated and some of the essential dialogue was lost.
This production was an enjoyable experience, keeping an energetic pace going especially in the second half. With such a strong cast one wonders whether a more experimental approach might have highlighted the issues more effectively.