NO! There is no point in presenting “Mother Courage and her Children” as some kind of historical tribute to Brecht! It is no Brecht tribute; just a thorn in the side of conservative understanding …Does anyone realize how relevant this play is to China, America, Russia, IS and a whole range of tribal shit that is being generated as some kind of normality? This aint history! This is now … Compounded by the fact that we sit in a cabaret of denial. The cabaret of our lives with smiling grimacing faces that pretend there is NO WAR! Can we forget WW1 and its generated propaganda so easily? And here we have those same powerful men who once were kings and god-appointed rulers deciding on the agendas and who now race playing chicken with billions of lives! Yet, a parent of a participating student in a play about this world situation feels compelled to suggest that students should not engage with such a situation. Students should not read “Mother Courage and Her Children”; let alone, perform it!
“It more than concerns me that the young and energetic students of ………… must be wasted on a College production that is one of the best examples of the worst of humanity; the poorest example of a female role model; and with the bleakest of conclusions. I was shocked by the decision made to produce “Mother Courage and Her Children” by Brecht in 2019. It is difficult to understand how DTC can produce year after year plays with such dark representation of humanity. Whatever the purpose for this, it is not clear to the audience. We are drawn in by the brilliant acting, the inspired scenery and lighting, the excellent costuming and music, but for what purpose? Most of us are too in awe and frightened to question the DTC’s choice of production, but we are left with distaste and still no understanding.
“I need to question why a ……… school focuses so much on an experience of hell (albeit – hell is real enough for many)? Does it benefit young people to act out abysmal behaviours on stage? Perhaps it does in some way. It is perhaps my own limited ability to grasp what is being inferred, but I think I am not alone in this.”
Brecht has been a polarising figure since the 1940s. But really, have we come to the situation where artistic work cannot explore the light and shade within human existence without being criticized for not providing platitudinous messages? Must all theatre be affirming of the positive as seen in Disney productions since the 1950s? Does it mean Macbeth needs to repent in order to fit some template for affirming human existence? Hamlet needs to find forgiveness for his father’s killer? Oedipus needs to do counselling to resolve family issues? The Crucible finds a solution to condemn naughty John Proctor while saving poor Abigail Williams, a victim of patriarchal society and an angel of mercy to the powerless! The letter from the parent seems to imply that doing Brecht plays and works such as Hamlet and The Crucible are detrimental to students and waste their talents. He has had enough and must do something.
In conversation, he posited the works such as Disney’s Little Mermaid and Seussical Jnr were more appropriate for 16 to 18 year old students to perform. While the company does such works, they are aimed more for Primary School and lower Secondary School students rather than for adults and young adults in College. And yes, they sell to a larger audience!
But even ignoring the amazing theatrical possibilities of Brecht’s Mother Courage and her Children, to condemn the work for the “bleakest of conclusions” is to miss the point of art and its relationship to society. Brecht wasn’t creating a hero in Mother Courage. She isn’t a villain either. The point is that within the context of war, it is virtually impossible for talented and innovative people to behave in an ethical and affirmative way throughout the atrocity. Students performing in Mother Courage are not simply creating psychologically sympathetic characters. The affirmation is of humanity. It is affirming a warning. WAR IS SIMPLY UNACCEPTABLE.
I would suggest that it is quite likely that our critic who suggests Mother Courage is ” the poorest example of a female role model; and with the bleakest of conclusions” would have no problem with the celebration of ANZAC Day and its celebration of the bravery of 60,000 Australian soldiers killed at the behest of a facilitated governmental action in a real atrocity far more potent than anything suggested in our play. He would not even open up to question the fact that it might have all been prevented with greater consciousness of choices and decisions made back in 1914. Yet we celebrate lunacy while condemning a play!
I suggest that while education still propagates the idea that war is somehow part of the natural human state, then involving students in works that illustrate the warning signs of evil and state sanctioned violations of humanity is essential. Disney and other organizations that organize the distractions of Nero’s “bread and circuses” are not the only sources of artistic validity for young people. There is more and Brecht offers substantial opportunity for explorations that challenge and undermine the prevailing political apathy that leads to fakery and human destruction!
Plays such as Mother Courage and her Children are not tributes to Brecht and should never be approached as such. How they were presented 50 or 60 years ago is of little relevance now. But the text provides vibrant opportunity to subvert dominant cultural and political ideologies that reign and will take us to destruction. They are always going to be contentions and thorns in the side of conservative meandering that can only result in future episodes of 60,000 dead! Or worse, the end of humanity in a climate induced destruction!