My interest in writing this piece has little to do with dramatic theory or of assigning Bertolt Brecht a place in the pantheon of great playwrights, poets and theorists. There is perhaps research, literature, speculation, liking and disliking enough already. There is certainly disagreement albeit the weight of evidence tends to support the charge that Brecht was a prat, never mind the seemingly mitigating political, social and economic conditions of his age.
Most commentators also recognize the genius although again there is certainly contemporary debate on how much genius was Brecht and how much his principal collaborators. Leading the recrimination against Brecht is John Fuegi. In his book The Life and Lies of Bertolt Brecht. I read it first with avid interest many years ago and much of it has stuck with me as I’ve taught Brecht and Epic Theatre in senior secondary school. But I admit openly that I am no scholar or intellect and that what fascinates me is not at all the study of Brecht’s ideas but his behavior even though it may be argued that its impossible to separate one from the other.
To say the least, Bertolt Brecht was a colourful character and he surrounded himself with other colourful characters and together they made up a story that is full of the kind of drama that I love. It’s thoroughly entertaining and eminently theatrical. Let’s see, there’s romance and comedy, melodrama and tragedy, treachery and betrayal as a starting point. This of course is amplified when set against a backdrop of the Weirmar Republic, Berlin, sin capital of the world and the rise of Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party. Here, fact far surpasses fiction as the genesis of a great yarn.
So what I have is intriguing characters, fascinating plot and engaging themes all of which are most suitable to be put to music. That’s where my collaboration with Mark, Lydia and Pete comes in to play. People will call the piece a musical and that will irritate me although it shouldn’t necessarily, especially if they like it. I think about it as a piece of Epic Theatre despite an exact understanding of what that might look like.
Certainly, at a basic level, I consciously use writing and directorial devices derived from my understanding of the style. Of course, I’ll probably be accused of trivializing and of being superficial and having not done anyone particular justice but that’s not so if you take the play as a starting point, as something that, if you’re really interested in the finer academic points, you can do your own further research and make up your own mind.
In the intrim, I’ve tried to be fair to all of the protagonists while indulging my own ideas on what constitutes good theatre. My play is not a biography or a history although it contains elements of each. It is largely accurate as far as I know and if I’ve felt the necessity to alter or reshape certain events within a framework of theatrical license, then I make no apology for having done so.
My play closes at the point in time that the Brecht entourage quits Germany. Of course it’s far from the end of the story. I refer to it as the end of Act 1. There is potentially an equally intriguing Act 2…Brecht in America. And it’s in my head to make a start on it but before that….