By: Bertolt Brecht in a translation by Tony Cushner
Cast includes: Fiona Shaw
Director: Deborah Warner
Set Designer: Tom Pye
Associate Designer: Vicki Fifield
Costume Designer: Ruth Myers
Lighting Designer: Jean Kalman
Songs: Duke Special
Video Designers: Lysander Ashton & Mark Grimmer
Sound Designers: Andrew Bruce & Nick Lidster
Olivier, September 2009
Mother Courage, one of the most astonishing stage creations of the twentieth century, drags her cart across the battlefields, profiteering from a war that destroys her children, one by one.
"It isn’t easy, starting a war, but nothing worthwhile is easy. And once you’re in, you’re hooked like a gambler, you can’t afford to walk away from the crapshoot once you’re deep into it."
Fiona Shaw returns to the National to take the title role in Tony Kushner’s inventive and vigorous translation of Bertolt Brecht’s uncompromising masterpiece. New live music by Duke Special and his band infuses this wildfire production from the team whose many international credits include Happy Days and Medea.
Read interviews with Tony Kushner and Fiona Shaw in The Guardian
'Warner pulls off something remarkable. No one has ever pleaded for Mother Courage to last longer: it is a play in which characters are not so much transformed as eroded, and it's easy for an audience to be merely drained by the relentless leaking away of life. The dynamism of Warner's production – which is enhanced by a voracious Charlotte Randle and an emollient Stephen Kennedy – risks looking preposterous. That is part of its point. Its unexpected energy is an ironic cackle in the face of tragedy.'
**** The Observer
'While some productions enforce an operatic unity, the director Deborah Warner courageously pursues all Brecht’s messy fractures. A bare stage is disrupted by stage managers, banners scrawled with locations and even a world-weary Gore Vidal reading the directions... unfailingly interesting.
**** Sunday Times
'Often I sit back and watch you, amazed," the smitten Chaplain tells Mother Courage in Tony Kushner's bouncy new translation of Brecht's greatest play. He could be speaking for the entire audience in the Olivier, where Fiona Shaw is delivering a phenomenal performance as this war-profiteering "hyena of the battlefield". The actress's dynamism is matched by the extraordinary vitality of Deborah Warner's modern-dress production which keeps faith with Brecht's staging theories, while smashing through the po-faced pieties that normally attend them. Giving a wacky twist to the trappings of epic theatre, it feels about as hidebound by convention as a piece of urgent, breaking news.'
'The play makes for epic theatre in every sense of the term.'
*** Evening Standard
'Fiona Shaw’s Mother Courage dominates the Olivier stage. Whatever ambivalence may be implied by Brecht about her moral choices, Shaw’s embodiment of the 17th-century merchant matriarch, the ultimate survivor, is so life-affirming as to demand admiration. It is a stunning performance which finds the complexity of Brecht’s most famous creation - while denying acquaintance with her mutilated son Swiss Cheese to save herself and her daughter, her face shows anguish, resignation, pragmatism and defiance all at once....Outstanding'.