Quote: “Art is not a mirror with which to reflect reality but a hammer with which to shape it. “- Bertolt Brecht What is the contextBrecht was born to a middle-class family, in germany In the 1930s, Brecht was a committed communist and started to study Marxism. Nine years later Hitler’s Fascist was becoming more powerful and many left-wing intellectuals in Germany (and in other countries including Britain) believed that they only political ideology to present a real alternative to fascism at the time was Communism. Brecht wrote a series of “teaching play” or “Lehrstücke” in German, this “teaching plays” were for performances in front of to workers, students and children that encouraged Communist thinking. The series begins with The Flight over the Ocean (1929) and ending with The Mother (1932), which I will be taking inspiration from for my solo. A year after on the 27th of February, with the burning down of the German parliament building, Brecht and his wife fled Germany.
A year later Nazis have discarded him from his German citizenship.Definition: Communism is defined as a theory or system of social organization in which all property is owned by the community and each person contributes and receives according to their ability and needs.Marxism: Marxism is a communist political and economic system that was devised by Karl Marx to act as opposed to Capitalism. Political Ideology is a certain set of ethical ideals, principles, doctrines, myths or symbols of a social movement, institution, class or large group that explains how society should work, and offers some political and cultural blueprint for a certain social order.Aspect of TheoryTheory and Practice: Epic TheatreBrecht once wrote: if the critics could only look at my theatre as an audience does, without staring out by stressing my theories, then they might well simply see theatre, a theatre, I hope, imbued with imagination, humor and meaning – and only when by certain innovations, which they could then find expectations in my theoretical writing.Brecht was primarily a playwright and a director, and his theoretical writing helps him to work, through his ideas about how to improve the effectiveness of his practical work. Even though Brecht constantly worked on his theories, even during the rehearsal process, to ensure that his theory lived up to his high standards.
According to Brecht, a theory was only completed once it has been performed. Epic theatre was one that both the theory and the theatre of this major practitioner is widely noticed. Thus I would like to focus in on Brecht’s theory of Epic Theatre. Epic Theatre is also a form of didactic drama which presents a series of loosely connected scenes that avoid illusion.
When we enter a theatre performance we expect the plot laid out in front of us and issues to be resolved at the end. Epic theatre doesn’t do that. The story starts and ends with issues unresolved and asking questions about what they’ll do to solve the issue (this is also known as breaking the 4th wall).
Brecht’s vision of Epic Theatre is to engage the audience in an emotional experience. Most of the plays done in Epic theatre shows political statements and arguments. The audience can study the story and relate to social realities. Epic Theatre is often associated with the dramatic theory.
Where he wanted his actors to change their costumes on stage, he wanted scenes to change in front of the audience. Realism and randomness were involved in his plays, which is unique compared to other plays.His influences that lead to his theory of Epic Theatre, was political and social circumstances that helped in the development of this style. Brecht’s involvement as a medical officer in the First World War and the situations and events he witnessed, had a strong influence on him as a young man. This is why the Marxist approach is so clear in his earlier works such as Man Is Man. The Marxist concept that we can see a pattern in history, as well as the class structural conflict and the proletariat that will rise as a winner from the battle seemed to be the answers for Brecht.
First World War also helped in the creation of a strong patriotic spirit in Germany that stimulated the meteoric rise of Nationalism and the Nazi regime in the country. This, in effect, also created the space for the Second World War and the following atrocities in the concentration camps.Epic Theatre techniques, Brecht use of narrative is to remind the audience that what they’re watching is a presentation of a story. The narrator will tell us what happens in the story before it has happened. This is a good way of making sure that we don’t become emotionally involved in the action to come as we already know what the outcome is.
Another technique Brecht uses is Direct Address, direct address is known as speaking directly to the audience (breaking the fourth wall) and destroys any illusion of reality (alienation). An example would be the moment where the actor would talk to the audience to ask for their opinion to solve an issue. The use of placards is another technique that uses signs of written information presented on stage.
Using placard is as simple as holding up a card or banner. Multimedia, PowerPoint slideshow or live feed can also be used to this effect. For example, a policeman arresting a robber. If the actor held up a placard saying ‘I am the law” that wouldn’t tell us anything about the character that we didn’t already know.
However, if the policeman’s placard said ‘I hate to arrest’ or ‘I’ve never thought of arresting someone’ the audience would be forced to consider other aspects of the policeman or of the situation.