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MODERN EUROPEAN DRAMA

THE GOOD PERSON OF SZECHWAN


BERTOLT BRECHT

German theatre practitioner The Good Person of Szechwan is a


play written by Bertolt Brecht. This play is an example of
Brechts Non Aristotelian drama that is intended to be stages
with the methods of epic theatre.
Brecht himself proposed the idea of epic theatre who suggested
that a play should not cause the spectator to identify
emotionally with the characters or action before him or her, but
should instead provoke rational self-reflection and a critical
view of the action on the stage. He thought that the experience
of a climactic catharsis of emotion left an audience complacent.
Instead, he wanted his audiences to adopt a critical perspective
in order to recognize social injustice and exploitation and to be
moved to go forth from the theatre and effect change in the
world outside. For this purpose, Brecht employed the use of
techniques that remind the spectator that the play is a
representation of reality and not reality itself. By highlighting
the constructed nature of the theatrical event, Brecht hoped to
communicate that the audience's reality was equally
constructed and, as such, was changeable.
The first technique used and understood in this was Epic play.
When Brecht was looking for a term that would encompass the
type of theatre he was looking to create, he was influenced by
the work of Erw the Epic Play will follow a story familiar to the
audience. The story is often in the form of a fable, or it will
show historical events. Brecht's intention in using known
material was to make it unsensational: by taking away any
attraction-grabbing wrapping' that an original story may have,
Brecht was stripping away a disguise that dramatic theatre
often uses in Piscator, an established German director who
during the 1920s and 30s was involved in the creation of new
theatre forms. Piscator was the first person to coin the phrase

Epic Theatre, a term that Brecht is often associated with. The


characters in the epic play represent an individual who in turn
represents all humankind. This also assists in breaking any
empathy that one might feel for a character.
Epic Actors serve as narrators and demonstrators. They retell
events and in doing so demonstrate actions and events that
assist in the audience's understanding the situation. Brecht
wanted his actors to always remember that they are an actor
portraying another's emotions, feelings and experiences. To
assist in achieving this, Brecht often used a device or theatrical
technique called Gestus. Gestus was a gesture or position that
an actor would take up at crucial sections in the play. The
gesture or action aimed to encapsulate the feelings of the
character at the one time, and also briefly stopped the action.
The most famous Gestus ever used was in Brecht's Mother
Courage where the character of Mother Courage looks out to
the audience, her face posed in a silent scream.
In the play, the placards and the songs sung out of character as commentary
on the action, the frequent changes of tone and switches of level, the theatrewithin-the-theatre (Shen Teh's role switching, e.g.), the self-conscious insistence
that we are, indeed, in a theatre (observing the scene changes and so on), and
much of what later came to be called Verfremdung, can be understood as
manifestations of this urge to create a theatre that is not so much 'dramatic' as
'epic'.
Epic Actors serve as narrators and demonstrators. They retell
events and in doing so demonstrate actions and events that
assist in the audience understand the situation. Brecht wanted
his actors to always remember that they are an actor
portraying another's emotions, feelings and experiences. To
assist in achieving this, Brecht often used a device or theatrical
technique called Gestus. Gestus was a gesture or position that

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an actor would take up at crucial sections in the play. The


gesture or action aimed to encapsulate the feelings of the
character at the one time, and also briefly stopped the action.
The most famous Gestus ever used was in Brecht's Mother
Courage where the character of Mother Courage looks out to
the audience, her face posed in a silent scream.
Brecht had no desire to hide any of the elements of theatrical
production. Lighting, music, scenery, costume changes, acting
style, projections and any other elements he called upon were
in full view of the audience; a reminder that they are in a
theatre, and what they are watching is not real. Brecht also
wished to change the scale of the properties used, and then
also use them out of context. For example, using a skyscraper
that makes up part of the set and turning it over to use as a
judges table in a courtroom. This challenged the audience, and
also reminded them that they were watching something that
was being manufactured, and not real life.
the best known technique of Brecht's epic theatre is the
Alienation Effect: to make the familiar strange. Although the
term alienate' may conjure up images of separating one thing
from another by building a wall, this is not the case. The Aeffect takes "the human social incidents to be portrayed and
label[s] them as something striking, something that calls for
explanation, is not to be taken for granted. The purpose of
this technique was to make the audience feel detached from
the action of the play, so they do not become immersed in the
fictional reality of the stage or become overly empathetic of the
character.
Although epic theatre is often perceived as lacking in emotion
or entertainment value, Brecht was actually intent on creating a
theatrical experience that entertained educated and provoked

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thought. This misconception seems to stem from the notion


that entertainment and education cannot coexist. However his
productions used intelligent humour, dance, music, clowning
and colour to tell stories with high political and social content.
After all, theatre is supposed to represent life, and life is
derived from of combination of the personal, social and political
climate of the time.