Bertolt Brecht EPIC THEATRE

Bertolt Brecht & EPIC THEATRE - Dramaphoenixdrama.weebly.com/uploads/2/4/2/3/24232850/epictheatre... · Bertolt Brecht EPIC THEATRE. Bertolt Brecht (1898-1956) was a famous German

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Bertolt Brecht EPIC THEATRE

Bertolt Brecht (1898-1956) was a famous German playwright and poet.

Brecht started to write political poetry and plays

at an early age about social issues.

He was branded a

troublemaker at school and got expelled for writing

anti-war poems.

Brecht became interested in Karl Marx’s Theories

of Socialism.

Marxist theories were about social justice, and

were critical of Capitalism.

It is about questioning who has power and money, and who goes without.

It is about

industrialisation, and how this affects workers and the power structures

of society.

Epic theatre came about at

a time when Melodrama, Realism and Naturalism were popular as theatre


Theses naturalistic styles tried to

recreate real life on stage.

The idea was for the audience to believe

the story and characters in the play were real.

Basically theatre aimed to be escapism.

The audience could forget about their lives for a


To not think.

Brecht hated this.

He saw it as a huge waste of an audience.

He wanted people to question and challenge – not simply accept and


In the 1920’s, Brecht created a new form of theatre -

designed to make the audience question

and think about what they were watching.

He called it Epic Theatre.

So, how did Brecht make the audience step back and view the message

rather than the spectacle?

Verfremdungseffekt or

alienation effects

Verfremdungseffekt was used to direct the audience’s attention

to something new.

This was done by getting the scene started, and then doing something


When the rhythm is interrupted, the audience stops getting lost

in the emotion, story and characters. They are able to start to think and question.

It is like a slap in the face with a wet


It wakes us up.

The idea with Verfremdungseffekt was to constantly remind the

audience they were in a theatre, watching a play.

These techniques break the illusion of drama. We do not get lost in the story or the

characters. Instead we are constantly

reminded that these are actors communicating ideas and

situations to us.

For example

• plays were performed with the house lights on so that audience members remained aware of each other during

the performance • music and dancing were used to break up the action of the play, or scenes

were sung rather than spoken • placards were used to give information to the audience

• all of the characters might be dressed in black rather than

individually costumed

what did this mean for the actor?

Brecht believed that the actor’s job was merely to show what happened. He did not want actors to identify with the character or to

play the role realistically, which was the opposite of Stanislavski’s purpose.

Brecht believed that the actor should:

* move as if blocking movements on stage for the first time or in a robotic, dreamlike way

* treat voice and movement so that they do not match

* speak as if quoting someone else rather than speaking


* speak the stage directions aloud

* remain physically and emotionally detached from the other actors

* play scenes with mismatched emotions, for example,

humour in a sad scene

* perform directly to the audience

* exchange roles with other actors

* perform the role as if critically appraising the actions from afar.

Brecht died at the age of 54. He fled Nazi Germany and lived as a script writer in Hollywood in the 1940’s.

In his will, he requested to

be buried in a lead lined coffin with a stiletto heel

through his heart.

Theatre people are weirdos...

But pretty clever, because he revolutionised theatre and turned it into a tool for looking at the big issues that affect us all. He made it possible for theatre to make a