Brecht developed the performance style Epic Theatre. Brecht says “the essential point of epic theatre is that it appeals less to the feelings than to the spectator’s reason”. Instead of sharing an experience the spectator must come to grips with the issues. Brecht defined epic theatre early as “a sequence of events or incidents, narrated without artificial restrictions as to time, place or any relevance to a formal plot”.
Epic theatre is the term used generally to describe Brecht’s theory and technique. His plays were ‘epic’ in that the dramatic action was episodic – a disconnected montage of scenes; non-representational staging, and the ‘alienation effect’. All elements contribute to Brecht’s overall purpose which was to comment on the political, social and economic elements that affected the lives of his characters.
Brecht’s aim always was to ensure that his audiences should be made not only to feel emotions but to be made to think, to see that choices can be made, conditions changed; that humankind makes itself and is not dominated by fate or unalterable destiny.
The ‘alienation effect’ was developed by Brecht in the 1920’s and 30’s. It is a technique which ‘enstranges’ the audience and forces them to question the social realities of the situations being presented in the play. Brecht achieved this by breaking the illusion created by conventional plays of the time. He believed that the ‘suspension of disbelief’ created by realistic drama was a shallow spectacle, with manipulative plots and heightened emotion. This theatre is a form of ‘escapism’ and did not challenge the audience at all. Rather than feel a deep connection to the characters Brecht believed that an emotional distance should be maintained. It is only when this happens, that the audience can effectively critique and evaluate the struggle between the characters and understand the social realities of the narrative.
This is evident in Mother Courage and Her Children when we see Mother Courage...