chapter
Examples of British Brecht discussed here include George Devine’s production of The Good Woman of Setzuan, Sam Wanamaker’s The Threepenny Opera and William Gaskill’s The Caucasian Chalk Circle. (Throughout this book all the play titles given reproduce exactly the translations used for the particular productions discussed.) The chapter also includes a brief assessment of the relationship between the work of Brecht and that of key British playwrights: John Arden, Arnold Wesker, John Osborne, Robert Bolt and Edward Bond. Chapter 3 describes the ways in which the political upheavals of 1968 and the social and artistic developments in Britain made Brecht eminently suitable and accessible to radical theatre groups. It analyses the impact of politically committed theatre practitioners’ attempts to take on all aspects of Brecht’s dramatic theory, political philosophy and, as far as possible, theatre practice. Detailed analyses of Brecht productions by some key radical companies (e.g. Foco Novo, Belt and Braces Roadshow, Liverpool’s Everyman Theatre, Manchester’s Contact Theatre and Glasgow’s Citizens Theatre) demonstrate how their commitment to the integra-tion of political meaning and aesthetic expression contributed to the growing understanding and acceptance of Brecht’s theatre in Britain. This achievement is contrasted in Chapter 4 with the ways in which Brecht’s plays were incorporated into the classical repertoire by the national companies – the Royal Shakespeare Company and the National Theatre – in the 1970s and 1980s. Here there is an assessment of the damaging impact on these Brecht productions of the companies’ hierarchical structure and organisation, the all-too-frequently non-collaborative approaches to production, and the undue emphasis placed on performance style and set design, often in isolation from a genuine commitment to the intrinsic, socio-political meaning of the texts. The chapter centres on the productions of Brecht in the 1970s and 1980s for the Royal Shakespeare Company directed by Howard Davies, and on those at the National Theatre directed by John Dexter and Richard Eyre. Chapter 5 presents three case studies, that is, detailed accounts based on access to rehears-als and on interviews with the relevant directors and performers, of three major British productions of Brecht plays in the early 1990s. The first case study is of the award-winning production of The Good Person of Sichuan at the National Theatre in 1989/90, directed by Deborah Warner, with Fiona Shaw as Shen Te/Shui Ta. The second is of the Citizens Theatre’s 1990 production of Mother Courage, directed by Philip Prowse, with Glenda Jackson in the title role. And the third is of the National Theatre’s The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui, directed in 1991 by Di Trevis, with Antony Sher as Ui. The main focus of this chapter and its case-studies is the relationship in practice between Brechtian theory, and the aesthetics and the politics of the texts, in both the rehearsal process and the finished performances.
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