chapter  2
26 Pages

PERFORMING EARLY BRITISH BRECHT

Following the Berliner

Western Europe first saw the work of the Berliner Ensemble in the summer of 1954, when the

company performed Mother Courage first in Bruges and Amsterdam, and then at the interna-

tional festival, Théâtre des Nations, in Paris. The production was directed jointly by Brecht and

Erich Engel and it was a festival first prize winner. When the Berliner Ensemble performed

The Caucasian Chalk Circle at the next Paris Festival in 1955, they were greatly admired by the

influential British theatre critic Kenneth Tynan, who was to remain a Brecht devotee and

champion for the rest of his life. In his review of The Caucasian Chalk Circle, headlined ‘Stars

from the East’, Tynan wrote:

I have read a great deal about Brecht’s theory of acting. . . . What it boils down to in

practice is something extremely simple. The small parts are all generalized . . . we know

at a glance what kind of people they are meant to be. . . . We can thus concentrate on

the principals, who wear no masks or make-up and play with absolute realism.