Brecht as a Dramatist
Brecht’s style is a very distinctive one, and it is one that is notoriously difficult to put into practice. With these explanations and activities, we hope to make it a little easier to grasp. It is worth pointing out The Threepenny Opera is very early Brecht work, and that at it’s time of performance, many of his most famous and innovative techniques weren’t developed as yet. So while the ‘Brechtian’ style is not as obvious in this play as in others like Mother Courage and Her Children, his burgeoning Epic style is still visible, interesting, and noteworthy.
Epic Theatre is an instructive theatre style that addresses the issues of modern society. Made famous by Brecht, and developed prominently when he was in exile, it had many influences; the theatre of Erwin Piscator and German Agitational Propaganda, cabaret, music hall comedy, American silent film, and even Elizabethan plays. Brecht says that it is a theatre style chiefly interested in the attitudes which people adopt towards on another, wherever they are socio-historically significant (Brecht on Theatre 86). The idea behind this style is that the audience should be put in the position where they can make comparisons about everything that influences the way human beings behave (Brecht on Theatre 86). An important difference between the naturalistic theatre style and Epic Theatre is the engendering of illusion. In Brechtian theatre, there is no preparation towards illusion; the audience is always made aware that they are watching a play, that the actors are playing parts, the technology of the theatre is visible, and the actors speak straight to the audience, ignoring the convention of the fourth wall. All of these elements cause the audience to never become emotionally involved with the characters; they are constantly reminded that it is a play, and instead the focus is placed on the social and political significance of the events in the play.