Brecht and Casting: A Reflection on The Personal History of David Copperfield

Posted: February 5, 2020

Armando Ianucci’s film The Personal History of David Copperfield is a retelling of Dickens’s novel. What is quite remarkable is the colourblind casting that pervades the film. The practice is often understood in one of two related ways. First, it is meritocratic: in a theatre repertoire full of white characters, the actor to play that […]


Brechtian Clichés #4: The Function of Brecht’s ‘Spoilers’

Posted: July 2, 2019

Martin Swales makes a point about Brecht’s provision of ‘spoilers’ in his plays, in an essay in the 2008 collection ‘Verwisch die Spuren!’: Bertolt Brecht’s Work and Legacy : A Reassessment. He writes ‘the notion […] that once the audience is informed of the outcome of a scene, it will thereby feel little tension, expectation […]


The Recent Explosion of Brecht Publications in English

Posted: April 28, 2019

The AHRC-funded Writing Brecht project, of which I was a team member, is winding down after several years’ service. Now seems like a good time to celebrate its achievements by picking out four of the highlights that emerged over the years. Brecht on Theatre This is perhaps the most significant publication of the project in […]


Brechtian Clichés #3: Breaking the Fourth Wall

Posted: April 20, 2019

It’s time to address another cliché relating to Brechtian practice. People often associate breaking the fourth wall (more on this below) with Brecht’s theatre, puncturing the fictional world by acknowledging the real world of the audience who are watching the theatrical production. In a way, this relates to the first Brechtian cliché I wrote about […]


New Section on the Site: Full Documentation of The Crucible

Posted: October 8, 2018

Just a quick one to say that I have expanded the brechtinpractice site with a full documentation of our production of The Crucible by Arthur Miller. A link to all pages can be found here.


Brechtian Clichés #2: An Obsession with Placards

Posted: May 5, 2018

There is a photograph, published in all editions of Brecht on Theatre and viewable on this website, in which a man is listening to the radio. The still, taken from The Flight of the Lindberghs (1929), has a placard above the man that reads ‘Der Hörer’ (‘The Listener’) and one in front of the on-stage orchestra that […]


New Document in the Download Zone

Posted: March 15, 2018

I have added a new document to the Download Zone: it’s a schedule for how you might approach rehearsing a full-length play using a Brechtian approach. The details are all in the document, as is my email address in case you have further questions or responses to the scheme.


Brechtian Clichés #1: ‘He wants you to know you’re in a theatre’

Posted: December 27, 2017

In an essay of 2009, Dan Rebellato notes ‘representational theatre is not illusionistic. In illusions we have mistaken beliefs about what we are seeing. No sane person watching a play believes that what is being represented before them is actually happening’. It is difficult, if not impossible, to take issue with his sentiments. One needs […]


More Thoughts on Gestus

Posted: November 16, 2017

Just a quick post to note that I’ve added a paragraph to the Gestus page. This, in part, is an addition made after reading a draft of David Zoob’s insightful and eye-opening book, Brecht: A Practical Handbook. Here he includes a Glossary. I realized, when offering thoughts on his entries for Gestus and Haltung, that Gestus is such a slippery term that it […]


Time to Say Goodbye to ‘Epic Theatre’

Posted: November 13, 2017

Epic Theatre is a term synonymous with Brecht’s theatre. Yet its meaning has often been misunderstood, and so it’s perhaps worth setting out its terms clearly first. ‘Epic’ has nothing to do with the Hollywood use of the word: grand, extensive and expensive. Brecht takes the term from Aristotle, who divides the arts into different […]


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David Barnett
Professor of Theatre
University of York