Mother Courage And Her Children
Dundee Rep, until Sat 27 Sep
It’s an austere landscape through which Ann Louise Ross drags her cart, scratching a living in the title role of Bertolt Brecht’s epic. Naomi Wilkinson’s set is a wall of grim metal panels, the stage a carpet of grey. Even the iconic cart is a mean little thing, a box covered in hard-warn canvas.
Indeed, there’s little to be cheery about in Brecht’s study of the dehumanising effects of money. Mother Courage’s relentless quest for a good deal and a hard bargain is behind every catastrophe that besets her, from her first son signing up to the army to her daughter’s death. ‘It’s just a question of money,’ she says, failing ever to see how destructive the profit motive can be.
Gerry Mulgrew’s production with a large Dundee ensemble - 13 people take a bow, not including musicians - makes this political position clear, showing that base economic necessity means ‘the war will always find an outlet.’ In a play with a reputation for its unremitting length, however, there is too little variation in tone. Ross captures the hard-bitten nature of Mother Courage exactly, but her sense of humour is so dry, her bitter worldview so bleak, that our journey through the war seems as thankless as hers.
Somehow, even John Harris’s eclectic score fails to lift the spirits and, despite flashes of humour from a talented cast, this production underplays the humanity bubbling beneath the surface of the important political allegory.