AFTER MOTHER COURAGE By Narcy Calamatta
After I saw MOTHER COURAGE AND HER CHILDREN at the Manoel Theatre I was left with some questions which I then had a lot of answers to them. Is it right or not that this comedy by Bertolt Brecht (a flowing translation by Loranne Vella) was made in the summer?
Taking into consideration at which stage war has come to against Ukraine one feels that now is the time to warn people. It seems like the news does not surprise us anymore. Millions of dollars, hundreds of thousands of weapons and munition overshadow the 20 people who get killed everyday, half of whom are children. The media delivers the details but not the message.
As Strinberg said, theatre is BIBLIA PAUPERUM, the poor man’s bible. If used well, theatre can teach you how to think and analyse facts and how to learn from them.
Brecht explores this in Mother Courage. He’s got a vein in history that reveals how meat is a key substance in survival thinking. The hero soldier deceives the monks so to steal pigs from them. The price of meat gets more expensive or cheaper according to peace or war. We can see the effect on those who eat expired meat from the black market.
To manage this crazy market, Brecht created Mother Courage whose love for her children hides her harshness against all humans. She befriends everyone for the sake of exploiting them for her own good. Josette Ciappara in the role of Mother Courage made justice to Brecht. Victor Debono as the Butcher deceived me because I could not recognise him. He was believable as a butcher in the way he cut the skin from the big joint of meat and also with a harsh voice you would not expect from Victor, because he’s such a gentle person in real life. These two actors justify this production with their consistency from start to finish.
A question which kept on echoing was “Is it right or wrong that these social comedies are held at a theatre built from the bourgeois for the bourgeois?” Would it have been better if it was held at a boċċi pitch? Did the use of voice amplification add or subtract the interpretation’s quality?
For me what matters is that it was done. I thank whoever took the risk to produce a relevant and useful piece such as this. It is easily understandable because it is speaking to people of good will. After we see this production we have the key to better appreciate overlooked details in the news.
We could say that very often Maltese theatre gives us something to hold onto long after we’ve left the theatre, and this has done just that.