Theatre Review: Mother Courage and Her Children

24 Sep

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Plot: Mother Courage and Her Children is an epic drama set in the 17th century during the Thirty Years’ War. The plot follows the resilient Mother Courage who survives by running a commissary business that profits from all sides. As the war claims all of her children in turn, the play poignantly demonstrates that no one can profit from the war without being subject to its terrible cost also.

I have always wanted so see Fiona Shaw and a Bertolt Brecht play performed so imagine my excitement when I found out that the National was doing a revival of Brecht’s greatest work with Shaw playing the title role. I booked the first preview performance on 10 September which was delayed for a good 10 minutes or so until the director, Deborah Warner took the stage and apologetically addressed the audience that they were unable to complete the technical rehearsal of the last 2 pivotal scenes and what was accomplished was only good enough up to the interval. The audience were given the option to stay and watch the unfinished product or leave now, either way our tickets will be reimbursed. As I have already been physically exhausted with all the theatre I have seen the past week, the thought of sitting through 2 hours and then returning to see it in its entirety with a running time of 3 hours and 20 minutes wasnt just too appealing so I left and hoped that on the day I have decided to rebook it which was a good two weeks, everything should be done and dusted and that the wait will be worth it.

So was it worth it? I have not read nor seen this play but came prepared to what it’s about, it’s an anti-war play with Anna Fierling, aka Mother Courage, who is a war profiteer that despite losing all her children seemed to be the only one who didnt learn a lesson from it all. This was obvious from the get go and until the end but that wasnt the bone I wanted to pick. Was it just me but I felt that I would have preferred a traditional version of this play as opposed to the noisy and then melancholy and oftentimes irritating infusion of music composed and performed by Duke Special. The novelty of having live music which is supposed to put you in the mood easily wore off for me and it just annoyed me all throughout. I was basically tempted to leave at the interval which of course I didnt do. I stayed because I wanted to like the play (or is it a musical?), I stayed because I wanted to say that Fiona Shaw was a trouper, rockstress one minute, then poignant the next.

Up to this day I still dont know what to make of this production and for the first time I am not even going to rate it. Fellow theatre trotter LondonTheatreGoer might make more sense than I do so you can check his own thoughts about the play here.

Mother Courage and Her Children is playing at the Olivier, National Theatre until December 08.

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