The Jewish Chronicle - - Arts&entertainment -

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

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