In 1990 I was privileged to experience Glenda Jackson as Courage at the National Theatre in London. I remember it being rough, with Jackson shouting, cannons bombing and flashing and pots, pans and drums creating cacophony. So much for my Berthold Brecht education.
Flash ahead 30+ years to Tucson and The Rogue Theater which embraces a genre of theater not often found here, e.g. Brecht, Faulkner, Beckett, Pinter, Albee… The Rogue’s production of Mother Courage brought the 30 Years’ War between Sweden and Germany in the 1600’s alive on a 30 x 30 stage, complete with a manually rotated platform on which Courage’s wagon moved through the scenes. When Brecht wrote the play, most scenes included lyrics for songs, but they were not scored. Tim Blevins of The Rogue wrote original scores and voila, you have a war musical – and a cynical comedy as groaning one-liners pierce the dialogue – a bit of 17th century vaudeville.
I could not begin to compare the two productions, but Cynthia Meier’s Courage was a gruesome testament both to how to survive a war and how to rationalize the death of your children. More than the horrors of war, Mother Courage is about the horror of the business of war and how it profits the very rich, feeds off the poor and provides employment for the industrious.