When the lights dim, a lighthearted catchy tune is broadcast through megaphones to the audience. Two young men enter from stage left pulling a red cart, decorated with brightly coloured light bulbs and two megaphones on top. As soon the cart is pulled to centre stage, out jumps Mother Courage barking orders in the harsh voice of an aged woman. Wearing her pink tuckshop lady apron and pink shoes, she begins the show.
Mother Courage and Her Children is a musical production featuring the unlikely story of triumph within disaster. A tale of one woman that is at her best in war, who takes her mismatched family into the battlefields with a cart of goods to sell to the troops.
Robin Nevin stars as Mother Courage and delivers strong dialogue with a witty attitude. Nevin portrays a woman with strong family values who will survive against all odds and plans to profit from the war. She performs alongside ten other actors, some of whom are stronger than others, each playing a valuable role in the world of war and Mother Courage.
The production is set in the Thirty Year War (between 1618 and 1648) that started as a war between the Catholics and The Protestants. The idea that war and chaos was the norm in the 17th Century is strongly reflected in the characterisation of Mother Courage.
I don't doubt that some people will really enjoy this production, but I for one found myself alienated from the story of woman who relishes war and places that burden on her own children. Looking on as a woman sings about death and sells her wares may be confronting to you as it was for me.
The first half of this 2-hour production is dry; the idea that a woman would take her family into wartime is hard to engage with emotionally. The show is brought to life in the second act with some of the stronger emotional stories shining through.
Mother Courage and Her Children is on at Belvoir St Theatre until July 26.
By Bertolt Brecht
Translation Michael Gow
Music Composition Stefan Gregory
Director Eamon Flack
Production image above by Heidrun Lohr.