Brechtian staging

Multi-roling

Multi-roling is when an actor plays more than one character onstage. The differences in character are marked by changing voice, movement, gesture and body language but the audience can clearly see that the same actor has taken on more than one role. This means the audience are more aware of the fact that they are watching a presentation of events. Cross-sex casting is also possible in Epic theatre as we don’t need to suspend our disbelief.

Split-role

This is where more than one actor plays the same character. For instance, the actor playing the main character might rotate from scene to scene. This keeps that character representational and inhibits emotional involvement and attachment on the part of the audience.

Minimal set / costume / props

Set, costume and props are all kept simple and representational. Elaborate costumes might mean that the sense of theatre, of pretending to be something else, was lost.

Brecht did believe in historicism as a convention of verfremdungseffekt. Although mise-en-scène or the stage setting was minimal, there was always a sense of authenticity to production elements apart from a little sound and lighting. For example, Mother Courage’s cart in the National Theatre production is stocked full with realistic props that Mother Courage would need for authenticity. The cart is the fifth member of the family according to Brecht so there are examples of props being as important as characters in his plays.

Symbolic props

Often one item can be used in a variety of ways. A suitcase might become a desk, or a car door or a bomb.

Lighting

Brecht believed in keeping lighting simple as he didn’t want the production values to overshadow the message of the work. He believed in using harsh white light as this illuminates the truth. However, many modern productions do use lighting effects. The important thing is that the audience still see the theatre, so often they will see production personnel, such as backstage crew, in action on the stage rather than hidden.