Mother Courage and Her Children
One of the neglected aspects of Mother Courage and Her Children, Brecht's great condemnation of capitalism as it is manifested in war, is its humour. There's a certain dark perversity to Brecht's story, which depicts a mother inadvertently sacrificing her children one by one for profit. It's an aspect not lost on Gerry Mulgrew, who, fresh from his CATS award for best actor in Dundee Rep's Peer Gynt, is back with the company as director of this classic.
'The thing about Brecht is he turns everything on its head,' he says. 'There's a song in the second half about Solomon and Julius Caesar and Socrates, how they were all virtuous, and it earned them the chop - they all came to sticky ends - his take on it is that it's better to be a coward and stay at home.'
Mulgrew is keen to emphasise parallels between Brecht's massively theatrical drama and current world events. 'Mother Courage has an instinctive maternal side that is undermined by her relentless desire to do business - there's that terrible irony about it, that war is actually business carried out by other means. Obviously that's what's happening in Afghanistan and Iraq as we speak: there's a lot of business going on in those countries. When the Taliban was in power there was no poppy grown; as soon as the war started, they started producing more heroin than ever before.' While Mulgrew's observation is a chilling one, it holds a certain bleak humour of the kind promised by this production.
Dundee Rep, Sat 6-Sat 27 Sep