Design: Lighting, Set and Costumes
Brecht believed that the stage should be brightly lit at all times.
Special effects such as lighting were a device to create 'mood' and this was not allowed on a Brechtian stage. In order to remind the audience that they were watching a play, Brecht made sure that the lighting devices were clearly visible and no 'illusion' was created.
The sets used are mainly 'suggestive' and not realistic.
For example, in USQ's production of Mother Courage and Her Children, Mother Courage does not have a cart, but the idea of the cart is represented by the revolve. It is the metaphor of the cart that embodies the importance, rather than a literal cart.
The set in this production is an enormous and epic construction. The design aspects are dark and there is an air of misery and pain which surrounds it. The cart, which is a main character in the play is represented by a circular revolve in centre stage. It is as if the cart (which is the symbol of economy and survival to Mother Courage and her children) is what has ultimately buried them in the world that they live in. The revolve continuously turns in a circle, representing the eternal struggle of Mother Courage and the fact that they are always moving but at the same time not really going anywhere. No matter how hard she works and struggles, she never gets anywhere, and as life goes on, the cart continues to bury her deeper into this hell.
Brecht usually left his stage bare in productions. It was a way of preventing the audience from being lost in illusion. Although this production does not have a bare stage, it finds a middle ground between where Brecht might have been and where Director, Scott Alderdice has interpreted the play. The production is self-consciously theatrical and is, essentially, pared back. The suggested cart of Mother Courage is in fact what Brecht used in his very first production of the show. It's a strongly visual play and the designs coincide with it to create a world that is both shocking and epic.
The costumes in this production, designed by Angela Ponting are a reflection of the life of the characters and the play. Although not era specific, they give an idea of the layers and age of the characters and their journey. Each costume makes an individual point about the character. The costumes are a mix of layers. It is as if the characters are wearing everything they own, and the costumes are their own skin, decaying from their bodies. As the characters have walked through life, it has become apparent that bits and pieces have grown or melded onto their 'skin' and layers have been stripped away. The whole design aspect looks at the idea that the characters are constantly clinging to life. It is as if the war and the world in which they live in has killed them already and the set and costumes reflect that. Their circumstances have drilled them down into a 'hell' in which they struggle to survive. The design aspects show how the life and death of these characters walk hand in hand and what remains of their soul is shown through the physical design of the show.