PLAY OF THE WEEK War is hell, says Brecht. So tell us what we don’t know
nature of war waged today, I cannot get rid of the nagging feeling that the play which is most relevant to now, and to the particular condition of living in the 21st century while our country’s army fights and dies in remote and distant lands, has yet to be written.
There have been some bold attempts by playwright Simon Stephens, while the Tricycle Theatre’s Afghanistan season also looked at how what happens to people over there affects people over here — or fails to.
That said, even though circumstances of war change, the moral questions do not, and Tony Kushner’s new translation of Mother Courage, and Deborah Warner’s whirligig production with its modern dress and weaponry, feels very modern.
The bare-bones staging announces scenes and locations with home-made surtitles written on giant sheets lowered from the flies. Technicians with headsets stand aloof from the action until they are needed for a spot of prop-moving — in accordance with the Brechtian aim of revealing theatrical artifice instead of hiding it. Yet in the moments when grief strikes Shaw’s quick-witted Mother Courage, nothing could feel more real.
The moment where she pretends not to recognise the dead body of one of her sons so that the soldiers who killed him do not know of her connection, is devastating. Shaw delivers it with a series of heart-breaking expres-
Fiona Shaw’s Mother Courage veers dangerously close to Rod Stewart