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Mother Courage and Her Children

Paisley Arts Centre
3 stars
Contrary to what some naysayers may think, inclusive theatre between
disabled and able-bodied performers is thriving to the extent of barely
being able to notice the join. Following hot on the heels of Robert
Softley’s Girl X, Birds of Paradise’s Glasgowed-up take on Lee Hall’s
chewily modern-sounding translation of Bertolt Brecht’s war-torn epic
plays much of it for laughs.

So while the action may nominally take place in seventeenth century
Poland during the thirty years war, Alison Peebles’ wily and
hard-bitten Mother Courage and her brood are gallus enough to suggest
they’re manning a stall down at the Barras. The way they stuff their
junk in carrier bags from Lidl and swig back Buckfast adds to the
effect, as does Johnny Austin’s portrayal of Courage’s son Swisscheese
as some galumphing escapee from Gregory’s Girl. The encircled A for
anarchy sign grafittied on the bombed-out walls of Hazel Blue’s set,
however, suggests something more serious.

Such contemporary close-to-homeness in Morven Gregor’s production does
much to remind us of the battle-scarred consequences of war, when the
free market turns to black market and survival matters more than whose
side you’re on. Yet, while there are some fine rough and ready moments
focusing on the personal rather than the political, as when Ashley
Smith’s mute Kattrin explores her blossoming womanhood via prostitute
Yvette’s red shoes and hat, the production overall needs more drive and
urgency. This comes in fits and starts during the ukulele and fiddle
accompanied songs, while Garry Robson’s ease with interacting with the
audience lends things a sense of spontaneity, but if this Mother
Courage is to survive, much more bite is needed.

The Herald, March 14th 2011

ends

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