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Modernism.Political Theatre, like the rest of Modernism posed a number of experimental, and often controversial ideas. The two main forerunners of Political Theatre were Germans, Erwin Piscator and Bertolt Brecht.

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Modernism came about due to a change in international thinking, with the likes of Darwin's evolution theory and the publication of Karl Marx's ' The Communist Manifesto' (1848). People wanted a clean break with tradition, presented through the arts as Romanticism and realism. Consequently, Modernism - an artistic experiment and immensely complex movement - encompassed the majority of the countries in the Western World, after figures in the 'avant-garde' of the movement, such as Zola and Nietzsche, spread out from the bohemian cities of Paris and Vienna, where Modernism stemmed from. Modernism is an Umbrella term, "an overwhelmingly complex phenomenon"1, including Naturalism, Symbolism and Theatre of the Absurd among others. It also began throughout the world at different times forming a number of different strands, such as Germanic and Anglo-American Modernism. It is for this reason that the movement is so difficult to pin down to one era. According to Bradbury and McFarlane, it began in 1880 and ended in the 1930's. However, among other critics, I propose that the period stretches further, much closer to the present day, where we are currently in the period of Post-Modernism. It is certain that Modernism began in the 1880's, making a swift transition from Romanticism. It was concerned with a negative consciousness, alienating the audience and creating a sense of disorder. ...read more.


It has been suggested that Piscator's Epic theatre was a fusion of these two elements. However, his theatre is not Naturalism. He uses aspects of previous forms, fitting them into Political Theatre. He is more sympathetic towards Naturalism because it shows 'real' people on stage, but claims the problems is that "...cries of exasperation stand where we should hear answers" 3, this being the difference. However, where Piscator scattered the pieces, Brecht was the one to pick them up and create the jigsaw. Brecht drew his own ideas from Piscator's, simplifying and customising them. Piscator wanted to create a new form of theatre, one that engulfed the social struggle, where the Proletariat take power from the ruling class, another link with Marxist Russia during World War I (1917). He wanted his audience, preferably the working class, to take a stand as a result of his theatre. Piscator once said " ...More than ever the theatre must nail its flag fanatically to the mast of politics: the politics of the proletariat... Theatre is action, the action of the proletariat"4 His theatre aimed to depict reality as truthfully and authentically as possible, providing a documentary style reality to the drama. This had repercussions on future Art, because this idea formed the basis for Documentary Theatre. ...read more.


However, after doing this, Weigel turned to the audience, opening her mouth in a 'silent scream'. This reminded the audience they were spectators at the theatre, another of Brecht's aims, but also had more affect on the audience than any real scream could have. It is for this reason that 'Mother Courage' was both a success and ineffectual for Brecht. Audiences always felt some emotion towards Courage, yet the play was well received. Brecht included a number of songs in his play, and the actors would 'step out' of character to perform these, adding to the Verfremdungseffekt. He wanted the music and text to juxtapose one another, such as when Yvette teaches Kattrin about love in the 'Fraternization Song'. Political Theatre played a key role in the development of Modernism as a whole, Brecht being the most influential character, but was also fundamental in the development of theatre. Remains of Political Theatre can be seen across the Arts today, and the sub-movement has been continued by such political writers as Edward Bond who said that theatre helps us to understand political views, complimenting the work of Brecht and Piscator. Despite being experimental and controversial, Political Theatre is now regarded with great respect and well received. Therefore, Brecht's ingenious but contentious ideology came true for him, and the development of Modern Theatre: Don't start from the good old things, but the bad new ones. ...read more.

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