How Successful is Brecht's 'The Good Person of Szechwan' as an example of Epic Theatre?

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How Successful is Brecht’s ‘The Good Person of Szechwan’ as an example of Epic Theatre?

Bertolt Brecht was born in February 1898 in Augsburg, Bavaria, Germany.  Up until 1924 Brecht lived in Bavaria.  He declared himself as an anti-militarist at the age of eighteen, and to avoid conscription into the army he decided to study medicine at Munich University, but he ended up carrying out his military service at an army hospital in Augsburg.  During this particular period of time Brecht had developed a violently Anti-bourgeois attitude.  This was an attitude that seemed to reflect the rest of Brecht’s generations mounting deep disappointment in the civilization in which they lived that had come crashing down around them at the end of the First World War.

Brecht’s plays are, in the most part, quite apparent and confident, but Brecht’s own theorizing however is not so clear-cut.  Brecht is probably less unique than he is supposed to be.  Brecht himself acknowledged a debt to traditional oriental theatre, and his plays also owe a lot to other broad ranges of theatrical conventions, such as, Elizabethan, Chinese, Japanese, Indian, Bavarian Folk-plays, Techniques of Clowns and Fairground entertainers, to list but a few.

For Brecht drama demanded that the audience’s thought about the emotional and political issues that the play was trying to portray.  So based on the Illusionist Theatre Brecht developed his idea of the Epic Theatre.  Brecht believed that, “The epic invites calm, detached contemplation and judgement; the dramatic overwhelms reason with passion and emotion, the spectator sharing the actor’s experiences” ().

The main difference between Brecht’s Epic Theatre and the more original Dramatic form of Theatre is that the Epic Theatre demands that the audience recognizes the fact that they are watching a play.  The Epic Theatre seeks to turn the audience into an observer but at the same time try’s to arouse their ability for action.  The other features of the Epic Theatre is that the play will usually have a narrator of some form, who will relate the story to the audience directly, where as the more traditional Dramatic form of theatre would have a plot which would be unravelled as it is acted out upon the stage.  In terms of the characters on the stage, Brecht wanted them to be alterable and be able to alter.  By this he meant that not only were the characters able to play more than one character in the play, but also they were also able to show how the character they were playing is able to alter throughout the play as it develops.  Brecht also wrote his plays so that each scene within the play was free standing and can almost be looked upon as mini plays within the whole play.

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Brecht developed techniques and devices that engaged his aims on the stage.  One particular technique is called, ‘Verfremdung’ or ‘Alienation Effect’.  The Alienation Effect was developed to constantly remind the audience that it was only a play that they were watching and not real life.  Some of the things that were used to alienate that audience was that Brecht used to refer to his actors as ‘demonstrators’, and he believed that they should stand beside that character, not get into the character.  The actor’s and actresses should behave as though they know they are being watched, “He expresses his ...

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