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Destroying the illusion

Bertolt Brecht
Brecht was born in 1898 in Germany
He believed that Theatre should make people

think - it should not be merely for entertainment

The audience and the actors should not get so
emotionally involved, or they will not learn
Theatre should not try and show real life
Theatre should represent things, not become

Epic Theatre
It took Brecht approximately 10 years to formulate his

Epic theatre.
His main influences were: Travelling fairs; Elizabethan
style theatre (props minimum, quick scene changes, if
He wanted to make clear the distinction between
Dramatic theatre (romanticised, emphasised theatre)
and Epic theatre, which distances the audience so
they look on objectively.
Through Epic Theatre, Brecht was not providing

truth, but rather opinions, and a method with

which to interrogate them.

What is Epic Theatre?

Epic theatre is virtually the antithesis of Dramatic

Dramatic theatre aims to imitate real life on stage
and draw its audience into feeling for the characters
on stage. The human being is unalterable. It shows
man as a fixed point.
Dramatic theatre wears down the spectators capacity
for action.
Epic theatre wants the audience to be critical
observers questioning what is happening on stage ,
realising the characters are actors and that the stage
world is not attempting to pretend to be real. The
human being IS alterable. Epic Theatre is a means for
social change.
The spectator is forced to face something and see
man as a process.

To imitate or mimic?
Brecht was aiming for his actors to portray a particular

mode of mimesis on stage. The relation to reality is a

critical one. Mimesis is understood as not just a simple
mirroring, but as a measuring; it always involves some
kind of attitude on our part. It is not possible, in Brecht's
view, to produce a neutral mimesis. Brecht's poem "On
Imitation" elaborates this notion succinctly:
He who only imitates and had nothing to say

On what he imitates is like

A poor chimpanzee, who imitates his trainer's
And does not smoke while doing so.
For never will a thoughtless imitation
Be a real imitation.

Epic theatre precedes
in fits and starts, in a
manner comparable to
the images on a film
strip (Benjamin 1992)
Brecht used montage
to keep his audiences
alert. By putting the
scenes in an unrelated
matter you are
constantly aware.

Attitude of acting
which was employed
in Epic Theatre. You
can look at the work
of Charlie Chaplin as
an example. What
Brecht admired about
Chaplin was that he
was in control of his
own movements,
actions and gestures.

means to alienate the

called alienation(V
effects of
audience, but the
Chinese acting (based on
translation is not very
Mei Lan Fung) in which he
accurate, so the word
commented on the actors
The V effekt literally

distancing is more accurate

with what Brecht wanted to
achieve. If the audience are
distanced they can be
objective, critical observers.
Brecht wrote that he
wanted to make the
incidents represented [on
stage] appear strange to
the public.

Brecht wrote an article

ability to stand aside from

his character and not
empathise with him. They
demonstrated the
mechanism of acting to the

What was the effect of these


To avoid getting too attached...

Brecht did not want you

getting too attached to

the characters on
stage, but instead focus
on the meaning of the
Actors could be
swapped around in
roles during the piece
to keep the audience

The actor and the

Brecht believed that an actor must not feel the

emotions of the character. You dont need to in order

to tell their story.
He often had a different actor play the protagonist in
the second half of the play, from the first, so the
audience would not get too attached.
It is the story that is important not the characters.
Actors would step-out of their roles and speak
directly to the audience/ explain what happens next.
They would also speak in the third person when in
character and speak stage directions to continuously
remind the audience that they are actors.

To show the mechanics of the stage reminds the audience that

they are watching a play.

Brecht did not want to hide his props, set or lighting. The
audience would often see actors get into costume on stage.
The audience were not plunged into darkness when the play
started. The fourth wall should be broken.
He used a boxing ring style design where the actors would
perform in a restricted space. Inside the boxing ring actors are
in character, outside they become the observer. Therefore
there is a stage within a stage happening.
During performances projections/images/slides were often
launched onto the back wall. Placards were also used to give
titles of scenes or the title of a song, followed by the projection
of the song words for the audience to join in.
Half masks were often used in Brechts theatre, preventing the
audience from empathising with the characters. Occasionally
they also used a half curtain, giving it an amateur feel.

Lighting was for clarity clear and
sharp, so that the audience could
see the actors better. There was
not an atmospheric purpose to the
lighting, but a functional purpose.
Achieving pathetic fallacy was not
the aim of using lights. Oil lamps
were often used, and they lit up
the musicians when they were on

Music was vital as part of
Brechts ideas for Epic Theatre.
Musicians were on stage and part of the
action. He wanted to constantly remind
the audience that it is a play. The songs
he used commented on the action or
characters, they narrated what
what was going to happen, and
sometimes the dilemmas felt by the
characters themselves.
By employing this technique, it
the audience from being lulled into the
action, as there is a shift, therefore
keeping us alert/aroused.

What is the point?

Why is trying to show real life not appropriate

on stage if you are trying to create a piece of

Epic theatre?
What do you think Brecht thought the purpose
of theatre was?
But shouldnt Theatre be about entertainment?
Dont gawp so romantically. Arouse your
capacity for thought! CHANGE THE WORLD!
How can these techniques be applied / be
useful for my devised piece?