The action takes place during The Thirty Years war, which spread across Europe in the Seventeenth century. As she follows the soldiers in her wagon, Mother Courage is the entrepreneur of the battlefield. It is her greed, as she strives to profit from the war, which loses her each of her children.
Fittingly for a play whose themes continue to this day, the design and feel of the production is timeless. Judith Croft recognises that two things should dominate the stage, Mother Courage and her wagon. The wagon itself, over the 12 years in which the play is set, ages alongside its owner.
The puns and innuendos in playwright Tony Kushner’s adaptation come thick and fast, with Mother Courage herself coming out with some of the best. Eve Polycarpou as is splendid as the central character, both irreverent and hilarious. With her red lipstick and white stripe through her black hair, she is perhaps unusually glamorous as Mother Courage, but this further adds to the general theatricality of the production.
There is good support from a strong cast. Natalie Grady gives a witty performance as Yvonne the prostitute, the one person who truly profits from the war. And Johnson Willis is good as the slightly pathetic Protestant Chaplain who pretends to be Catholic. There is also a moving performance from Amelia Donkor as Katrin, Mother Courage’s mute daughter who is cursed to be unable to speak in front of so much noise.
Greg Palmer’s new musical score, which ranges from klezmer and gypsy influenced sounds to American folk, adds to the vaudeville atmosphere.
Despite the general comedy of the play, we are never allowed to forget the central theme of war. The entertainment and laughter only further highlights the moments of tragedy and Brecht’s grim conclusion as Mother Courage continues forward, alone with her wagon.
- Joanna Ing