The Mother Scoop at More London 01 September 2011

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Picture from timeout.co.uk

About the venue and company

These are free shows in a nice little amphitheatre, but there are barriers and you get the back of your hand stamped as you go in–I don’t know why.  You can buy refreshments and programmes and hire cushions.  The programme says SIFT [Steam Industry Free Theatre Ltd] believes that all people, irrespective of age, education, physical ability or ethnic background, should be able to access, and participate in high quality free theatre.  That sounds as though Brecht might have agreed.  The ancient Athenians for their part had a ‘theoric fund’ to allow those who could not pay to attend the theatre, and rather a large portion of the relevant demographic must have appeared in the chorus at one stage or another.

About the play

This 1932 play by Brecht is based on a novel by Maxim Gorky dating from 1906.  The theme is how Pelegea Vlassova an illiterate lower-class woman is drawn into the revolutionary struggle by the activity and imprisonment of her son Pavel and herself becomes a revolutionary activist, realising she must struggle for all sons of all mothers, until she triumphantly if limpingly gets to carry the Red Flag during the October Revolution of 1917.

About this production

So we had the floor of the amphitheatre with a couple of huts in the spirit of the Athenian Greek skene at opposing ends.  It was all done in fine Brechtian style, with voice-overs announcing the scenes, dodgy onstage lighting, marching and songs.  And a red flag the only splash of colour among the black grey and brown. Nicky Goldie gave a commanding performance as Pelagea Vlassova and Alistair Hoyle as her son Pavel sung very well.  I thought the portrayal of the policemen was a bit close to naturalism, and indeed naturalistic stereotype, while there was something ineradicably German about the part of the estate butcher who comes round to supporting the striking estate workers.

Are we meant to take what the text appears to say seriously these days?  This performance seemed to be subjecting it to ironic–if not mocking–scrutiny, which must be the best approach…

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