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Archive for September 19th, 2008

Photo - Dundee Rep.

For their first big show this season, Dundee Rep have chosen Mother Courage.    And at three hours, it was a big show indeed.     

There was a lot to like and admire.    Central to the whole and onstage for most of the time, Ann Louise Ross gave a worthy and powerful account of Mother Courage, and was very ably supported by a hard-working and multi-tasking cast.     There was specially commissioned new music by John Ross, and played live by a band on stage, although not all the numbers worked well.     Dundee Rep brings in new actors to their ensemble under the graduate training scheme, so newcomer Gemma McElhinney (pictured here with Ann Louise Ross) played the tricky role of the dumb Katrin with a notable performance.      The storytelling came over clearly, and the singing was good – Dundee does ‘ensemble’ very well.    Naomi Wilkinson’s simple grey metal set and snowdrifts with a revolve, lit by Tina McHugh was effective.

So why was this a bit disappointing?    This is an anti-war play which, given where we are with Iraq and Afghanistan, could not be more topical.      The story we were so ably being told just did not make enough connection.     Mother Courage feeds off the war, and sacrifices her children because of it.     The production by Gerry Mulgrew simply was not angry or bitter enough to be as hard hitting as a performance of this Brecht could and should really be.      Perhaps the translation by John Willett used did not help.   While there was, as expected,  plenty of shouting and soldiers and peasants stompting about in boots, there were few tears.    Perhaps there could have been more if this Mother Courage had been played a tad less unsentimentally, and Robert Paterson’s cook had not been so likeable.    And the big song at the end should have been sung with the actors right in front of the audience instead of across the back of the set.

It was certainly well worth seeing – just don’t expect to be as angry as you really should be by the end.

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