BRECHT IN PRACTICE
Direction: An Emphasis On Process

Brecht’s is a theatre of clarity, showing the audience how social mechanisms unfold. He once noted during rehearsal: ‘don’t put everything under one hat; on the contrary, always pull out a new rabbit from the hat’. Here he meant that complex social interactions had to be carefully set out in order to show how they function, one step at a time. Consequently, a director and the cast are charged with breaking down actions and interactions into their component parts.

This emphasis on the clarity of social processes may suggest that the stage is doing the audience’s work for it by interpreting the dramatic material and leaving no room for audience input, but this isn’t really the case. Such an approach articulates contradictions, but doesn’t account for them. Performance draws attention to issues and then passes them on to the audience for its consideration.

A directorial strategy that can prove useful here is to enforce a ban on ‘walking and talking’, that is, an actor either moves, makes a gesture or delivers text at any one time. In this way, one thing follows the next in clear succession. This approach strikes many actors as inorganic and unnatural in rehearsal. That is, of course, because it breaks down what happens and no longer resembles everyday life. That said, as actors adjust to this form of theatre-making, the jerky movements and the staccato delivery becomes more familiar as time progresses, and the result is a kind of heightened realism, but not necessarily stylization.

 


BRECHT IN PRACTICE - Copyright 2017 © Prof. David Barnett | All Rights Reserved

David Barnett
Professor of Theatre
University of York

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