MOTHER COURAGE AND HER CHILDREN
Olivier, National Theatre, London SE1
BR E C HT ’ S C HARA C T E R , Mot h e r Courage, i s not t h e o n l y mo r - a l l y a mbiguous merchant to have been resurrected by the National recently. Last year George Bernard Shaw’s arms dealer Undershaft took to the same stage in a revival of Major Barbara.
It is good to see them back. There would have been something wrong had we got this far into the current era of conflict without viewing today’s violent times through the prism of both these works.
Brecht’s prophetic play — for it was while in exile in 1939 that the German dramatist finished writing Mother Courage — has the urgency of a cautionary tale about it.
His eponymous matriarch, played here by a mesmerising Fiona Shaw, trudges with her goods wagon through war-torn 17th-century Europe making money but losing her children as she goes. The lesson being that in times of war, even a merchant’s loss outweighs the profits.
But if the reason for reviving these plays is at least partly to examine the