7 - 22 May 2015
Mother Courage and Her Children
by Bertolt Brecht
in a translation by John Willett
Revised by Ed Thomas
Lyrics revised by Dafydd James and Ed Thomas
Director: John E McGrath
Merthyr Labour Club, Merthyr Tydfil
National Theatre Wales returns to its birthplace in the south Wales valleys for the first production in its fifth season - a bold, anarchic new version of Bertolt Brecht’s 1939 anti-war play performed in and around the Merthyr Labour Club.
Hinterland creator Ed Thomas returns to the stage to adapt, NTW artistic director John McGrath will direct and My Name is Sue composer Dafydd James will write original music, mixing Brecht’s world with the Saturday-night spirit of Merthyr.
Mother Courage has been described as the greatest play of the twentieth century. Performed by a cast of nine great Welsh actresses, in the gutsy English of the South Wales Valleys, and in the context of our own unending wars, this will be a defiantly twenty-first century version.
Suitable for ages 14+ - Contains some strong language
By Bertolt Brecht
Translation by John Willett
Revised by Ed Thomas
Lyrics revised by Dafydd James &
Director John E McGrath
Designer Jean Chan
Composer, Musical Director & Arrangement
Lighting Designer Natasha Chivers
Sound Designer Mike Beer
Video Designer Ian William Galloway
Movement Director Jo Fong
Music production & arrangement
Emerging Director Rhiannon White
Best work of theatre of the year, so far!? Gut-wretching, hilarious and alert
There is absolutely no excuse not to see Mother Courage in Merthyr
the acting is top notch… In fact, there isn't a weak link and - ably supported by a gloriously voiced community choir - they prove that when it comes to established actresses, Wales is richly served
The play’s message - that you can't profit from war without also suffering losses - comes through loud and clear in Thomas’ version, which has a directness that seems true both to Brecht and the Valleys.
Rhian Morgan gives a suitably ballsy, brassy performance here as the ultimate Mam of Merthyr.
imaginatively conceived and coherently realised - not to mention bracingly rude.
It’s as though Brecht’s polemic… has sprung directly from the fabric of the very building
the tension in the room is palpable
I guess every director has a list of plays that they want to direct some day. Mother Courage has long been up at the top of my list - I was just waiting for the right moment, and the right place. The spirit of south Wales, particularly a town like Merthyr, feels very close to the questions of the play. What will we do to survive? What kind of cunning and know-how might carry us through the worst of times?
Mother Courage is a great observer of the people around her - she has an opinion on everyone. And Brecht always encourages us to see why people behave in the way they do. What would it be like, I wondered, if all the play’s characters were performed by women like Mother Courage? What might some of our greatest actresses have to show us about the men who make and act upon the decisions that affect us all?
So here we have it - Mother Courage in Merthyr, performed by a cast of Mother Courages, in Ed Thomas’ extraordinary ‘Valleys English’ with music by Dafydd James that channels a raucous Welsh night out. Absolutely the right time and place.
John E McGrath
John E McGrath is the artistic director of National Theatre Wales. He also directed the company’s first production, Alan Harris’ A Good Night Out in the Valleys and The Opportunity of Efficiency at Japan’s New National Theatre, Tokyo, as well as Gary Owen’s Love Steals Us from Loneliness, In Water I’m Weightless by Kaite O’Reilly and Tim Price’s award-winning The Radicalisation of Bradley Manning.