View Count: 124 |  Publish Date: June 07, 2013
QTC puts spin on Mother Courage

One of the stark sets from Mother Courage, using corrugated iron, plastic waiting room chairs and a large rock as a spectre of the land being plundered. Photo: Supplied
Mining is king. War is raging. And Mother Courage has everything you need.
The Queensland Theatre Companys adaptation of Mother Courage and Her Children removes Bertholt Brechts original story from its 17th century European war setting, and places it in a ravaged Australian future outback.
In a stroke it focuses a play, that can be inaccessible for many, on two very relevant topics - the resources boom and the role indigenous Australians will play in their own destiny.
Ursula Yovich plays the central character in Mother Courage. Photo: Supplied
QTC Artistic Director Wesley Enoch has a gift for making often controversial perspectives palatable; to speak plainly rather than to preach. Theatre should be challenging, but Enoch and co-translator Paula Nazarski understand instinctively that you cannot affect hearts and minds if their eyes are not there to witness it. Advertisement
Change is what Brecht was all about. The German dramatist wanted to use the theatre as an agent of change, to strip away artifice and present a version of reality that could be altered if the audience decided it should be.
By using an Aboriginal cast, Enoch makes race both vital and unimportant. It is ultimately humanity being the victim and perpetrator of atrocities and begs the question - is this the future we want?
Mother Courage is the wily canteen woman who follows the mining camps around. The resources companies and rogue armies have profited from her ancestral land, why should she not profit from them? Her goal is simply to keep her children alive, which in a world where virtue is pointless, that often means vice. But vice doesnt go unpunished, not even for crafty Mother Courage.
Ursula Yovich is a wonder as the central character. Frank and uncompromising, yet caring and dedicated, Mother Courage is all shades of grey. Yovich effortlessly entrances the audience, but holds them at enough of a distance to embody Brechts “alienation” effect. She has a brilliant set of pipes too, which means her songs soar with life and heartbreak where appropriate.
Yovich is ably supported by Luke Carroll as the headstrong Eilif, Eliah Watego as the simple Swiss Cheese, and particularly Chenoa Deemal as the mute Kattrin, whose meek persona is captivating. David Page as a happy-go-lucky Chaplain and Michael Tuahine as the malevolent Cook round out the principal characters, but theyre supported by a dynamic ensemble that act, sing, play instruments and change sets.
The star of the sets is Mother Courages canteen, a battered XF Falcon ute that provides levels and anchoring points for all of the scenes. The rest is stark but epic: corrugated iron, plastic waiting room chairs, a large rock hanging over the back of stage as a spectre of the land being plundered.
Composer John Rodgers and Musical director Christina Smith have given Brechts songs modern edges, utilising indigenous instruments and melodies with bawdiness and soul.
The Fraternisation Song in particular is splendidly delivered by Roxanne McDonald as camp prostitute Yvette, whose fortune waxes and wanes on the favours of soldiers.
The plays coda is a devastating gut-punch that brings the story back into the present, with a call for those who have fought to keep fighting, keep going, keep pushing the canteen, because giving up is no alternative at all.
It is a long play to sit through, I was saddened to see the Playhouse only two-thirds full on the night I saw the production. But I was heartened upon leaving the theatre when I overheard two schoolgirls explain the meaning of the plays conclusion to their mother.
If you have always wanted to see a Brecht, or a “classic” of 20th century theatre, but have been too intimidated by the language and themes, try Mother Courage and Her Children.

Time: 18:11  |  News Code: 270331  |  Site: brisbanetimes
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