Lots of Courage
It's a real challenge for a troupe of young theatre artists to take on a big play like Bertolt Brecht's Mother Courage And Her Children, especially the demanding lead role.
An anti-war piece written in 1939 and first performed in 1941, it reflects the European situation of the time even though it's set during the Thirty Years' War of the 1600s; in fact, it's a timeless work about the fact that war is always in someone's interest.
At its centre is an unsentimental canteen woman who makes her living following and selling goods to the troops on both sides. But Mother Courage finds that she must make her own sacrifices to the war.
Director Richard Greenblatt's quick-moving production for Ryerson Theatre makes its dramatic and moral points succinctly, including apropos jabs at Dubya. Jonathan Dove's vibrant score, led by musical director Allen Cole, catches the irony of Brecht's text, while Glenn Davidson's set of rags and barbed wire suggests a worn-out world, and Alex Gilbert's costumes give the figures a contemporary air.
The choral work is especially strong, and there's a good sense of characterization in smaller roles. Standing out in the large cast are Matt O'Connor as Mother Courage's son Eilif, determined to be a soldier despite his mother's wishes, Michael Iliadis as the Cook, who has more than a passing interest in Courage, and Erin Dickson as Yvette, a prostitute who knows how to stay safe in a time of short-term peace and long-term battle.
But the most nuanced characters are Warren Bain's Chaplain, who attaches himself to Mother Courage and grows more passionate as the play progresses, and Anika Johnson as the title character. Her good singing voice and ability to suggest how Mother Courage becomes emotionally caught up in her world convey, especially in the second act, a weary cynicism and the tragedy that underlies it.
Toronto can't get enough of Wajdi Mouawad's award-winning Scorched. The Tarragon production's been a sell-out twice, and it's currently touring across the country.
But if you haven't seen it, you have one more chance to catch the excellent show when it returns to the Tarragon June 9 to 28.
The theatre's offering a one-day seat sale for the remount Friday (February 13); tickets are $20 for any performance.
Call 416-531-1827 or order online at tarragontheatre.com.