Performing Brecht: Forty Years of British Performances


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Theatre Journal

PERFORMING BRECHT: Forty years of British performances

As a composer during rehearsals, Bert made it clear that detachment was very important to making his literary collaborations evoke the right feelings. Brecht urged audiences to remain objective and to engage in performances with no emotion. Photo on VisualHunt. Brecht is perhaps most famous for his communist theories and his interest in politics, which was often a central element in many of his written and performed works.

That said, Bertolt Brecht had a wide range of plays that gave him his accolades in the genre. Brecht wrote a play about Galileo.


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So what techniques does an acclaimed dramatist use to depict his stories? What are the principles that Brecht adhered by that made his works such huge successes? See below the types of techniques the writer and director implemented into his performances, or find out more by taking acting classes and acting out scenes from his plays.

One can imagine that the stage is surrounded by walls, creating a cube, and that the fourth wall is that which separates the stage from the audience. Instead of letting spectators get lost in a performance, the actors will break that barrier between stage and audience and directly address the crowd. They may make comments, pass judgement, or ask the audience question to break the wall.

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Though common in early theatre, it had become more usual for drama to try and immerse the audience in the action. Just as it sounds, a montage is a short movie clip that is used to display factual events.

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Brecht used these quite a lot in order to get a message across, sometimes to highlight certain social or political issues. Sometimes, juxtaposing clips were put together to make the viewer truly think. Brecht was a lover of lyrics and music, so it comes as no surprise that he fed these creative elements into his works.

Many of his plays included songs, dances and music , and again the dramatist would play on words or on reactions by placing happy, upbeat music with dark or grotesque lyrics. These responses led to a small crop of British productions of Brecht plays in the late s and early s, but these received somewhat mixed reviews.

The archaic words and phrases, unusual rhythms, poetic word order, and so on, proved, and continue to prove, a challenge to any translator. In both cases it frequently resulted in dismissive reviews and a rejection of the playwright. Gradually, however, the tide of anti-Brecht feeling was beginning to turn and it was given a following wind when the Berliner Ensemble made their second visit to London in Ideas in the British theatre were on the move; the arts in general in the s were in a time of change and expansion.

Brecht had been appropriated. But the problem with appro-priation, of course, is that its very purpose is to pull sharp teeth and nullify political bite. In the s, Britain blinks, uncertainly and with nostalgia, in a post-cold war, post-industrial and postmodern light. Not only are the political enemies no longer identifiable, authors, too, have gone largely the way of cultural relativism. Whether there will be a meaningful place and function again for Brecht in British theatre remains to be seen. Material is drawn from published interviews with and performance reviews of key performers such as Helene Weigel, Ekkehard Schall, Angelika Hurwicz and Charles Laughton.

In Chapter 2, the subject is the penetration of British theatre by Brecht material in the s. The chapter explains how both early British productions of Brecht and new playwrights in Britain were influenced by the work of the Berliner Ensemble. Throughout this book all the play titles given reproduce exactly the translations used for the particular productions discussed. Chapter 3 describes the ways in which the political upheavals of and the social and artistic developments in Britain made Brecht eminently suitable and accessible to radical theatre groups.

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Detailed analyses of Brecht productions by some key radical companies e. 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 s. 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.

There has always been an unwilling-ness in Britain to contemplate or work via a theoretical basis for art. British theatre, it might be argued, has never paid open respect to the intellectual approach; instead, it has thrived on traditional approaches and instinct, not on revolution and theoretical debate. This, plus a basic. The great British actor Alec Guinness wrote in in answer to an article by Brecht on acting: I find his theories cut right across the very nature of the actor, substituting some cerebral process for the instinctive and traditional accumulation of centuries.

I believe in the mystery and illusion of the theatre which Brecht seems to despise. And yet the part of the British theatrical tradition that is built on the performing of Shakespeare so often brings the performer very close to Brechtian notions of theatre. The great boost to the development of a public for the play-wright came from the first visit to London by his company, the Berliner Ensemble, in — shortly, that is, after his death.

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These responses led to a small crop of British productions of Brecht plays in the late s and early s, but these received somewhat mixed reviews. The archaic words and phrases, unusual rhythms, poetic word order, and so on, proved, and continue to prove, a challenge to any translator.


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In both cases it frequently resulted in dismissive reviews and a rejection of the playwright. Gradually, however, the tide of anti-Brecht feeling was beginning to turn and it was given a following wind when the Berliner Ensemble made their second visit to London in Ideas in the British theatre were on the move; the arts in general in the s were in a time of change and expansion. Brecht had been appropriated. But the problem with appro-priation, of course, is that its very purpose is to pull sharp teeth and nullify political bite.

Performing Brecht : Forty years of British performances

In the s, Britain blinks, uncertainly and with nostalgia, in a post-cold war, post-industrial and postmodern light. Not only are the political enemies no longer identifiable, authors, too, have gone largely the way of cultural relativism. Whether there will be a meaningful place and function again for Brecht in British theatre remains to be seen. Material is drawn from published interviews with and performance reviews of key performers such as Helene Weigel, Ekkehard Schall, Angelika Hurwicz and Charles Laughton.

Performing Brecht: Forty Years of British Performances Performing Brecht: Forty Years of British Performances
Performing Brecht: Forty Years of British Performances Performing Brecht: Forty Years of British Performances
Performing Brecht: Forty Years of British Performances Performing Brecht: Forty Years of British Performances
Performing Brecht: Forty Years of British Performances Performing Brecht: Forty Years of British Performances
Performing Brecht: Forty Years of British Performances Performing Brecht: Forty Years of British Performances
Performing Brecht: Forty Years of British Performances Performing Brecht: Forty Years of British Performances
Performing Brecht: Forty Years of British Performances Performing Brecht: Forty Years of British Performances
Performing Brecht: Forty Years of British Performances Performing Brecht: Forty Years of British Performances
Performing Brecht: Forty Years of British Performances

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