The Caucasian Chalk Circle sneaked into my top ten of 2011, so when I saw that director Tom Neill's next foray into Brecht would also be coming to Greenwich, booking was a bit of a no-brainer. This time Neill tackles perhaps the best-known of Brecht's plays, Mother Courage and her Children, using Lee Hall's translation. Anna Fierling, aka Mother Courage, makes war her business: She travels the battlefields of Europe with her cart, changing allegiances as necessary, selling food, drink, clothing and anything she can make a profit out of to the various armies. She's determined that she can make a living out of war without having to pay the price herself, but over the years she has to watch as all three of her children die either directly or indirectly as a result of the conflicts.
This production nominally moves the action from the Hundred Years' War to a post-apocalyptic future, with the captions announcing the action taking place between 2024 and 2036. In practice this isn't particularly followed through, the modern dress and rock music are staples of recent productions anyway, and in any case the play's message is always crystal clear without any need to make the setting more contemporary.
This was Richard's first Brecht play and I'm not sure he was convinced, but that's probably more his reaction to the play than the production, which he seemed impressed with. The actors also play an annoying variety of musical instruments (annoying to someone who couldn't manage to learn one) and overall this is pretty textbook stuff. It may not be as radical an interpretation as Deborah Warner's at the National a couple of years ago, but for my money it cuts to the heart of the play faster and more keenly.
Mother Courage and her Children by Bertolt Brecht in a version by Lee Hall is booking until the 13th of October at Greenwich Theatre; then continuing on tour to Stantonbury, Wellingborough, Didcot, Wimbourne, Wolverhampton, Lincoln, Uppingham, Crawley, Malvern, Derby, Barnsley, Buxton, Hexham, Stevenage, Nottingham, Taunton, Chelmsford, Peterborough, Shrewsbury, Cambridge and Barnstaple.
Running time: 2 hours 30 minutes including interval.