Brecht's intent was to keep the audience alienated or distanced from what is happening in the play so they could freely concentrate on the larger social and political issues that are made and reflected during the play. Brecht considered his plays to be epic because it attempted to create a whole new perspective of human history and to indicate the political direction to make things clearer.
Brecht's, Epic theatre (Brechtian theatre), was directed against the fantasy of traditional theatre. Brecht instead wanted to encourage the audience to watch events on stage open minded and to reach their own conclusions. To prevent spectators from becoming emotionally involved with a play and identifying with its characters, Brecht used a variety of techniques. One of the techniques used as known as "the alienation effect". This technique was to remind the spectator that this play is a representation of reality and not reality itself.
Such techniques including the direct address by actors to the audience, exaggeration, unnatural stage lighting, the use of song, explanatory placards, unfamiliar settings were used to create this effect.
What Brecht wanted was a new kind of theatre which reflected the times in which they were living, which examined the society, that asked questions to the actors and the audience which entertained whilst being a political and social tool to change society. Brecht's major goal was to make the audience examine the world around them to see things in a new way so they can ask questions on themselves and others around. He also gives the opportunity of choice which deals with the responsibility of your actions which there is always an alternative outcome. It enables people to wonder why the world around them is changeable, and nothing is fixed and you can do something about it.
Brecht was not interested in his actors becoming their role he wanted them to be able to step out of their character and be detached from their character. So if an actor acted sad the audience would feel for the character. Brecht wanted the audience to question what was going on, and not feel for the actor.
The differences between dramatic theatre and epic theatre are shown below:
Plot VS Narrative, Implicates the spectator in a stage situation VS Turns the spectator into an observer, Wears down his capacity for action VS Arouses his capacity for action, Provides him with sensations VS Forces him to take decisions, Experience VS Picture of the world
He is unalterable VS He is alterable and able to alter. One scene makes another VS Each scene for itself.
Growth VS Montage
Feeling VS Reason
These are the differences Brecht made to make the strong social and political message, which enabled the audience to see the message without feeling for the characters.
Brecht envisaged the Epic Stage as a place for discussion. The audience is presented with a topic of social or political relevance and an opinion or message on said topic. The epic stage provides its audience with questions, possible solutions and actively encourages them to think, determine and act.
Brecht had no desire to hide any of the elements of theatrical production. Lighting, music, scenery, costume changes, acting style, projections and any other elements he called upon were in full view of the audience; a reminder that they are in a theatre, and what they are watching was not real.
Brecht's Mother Courage offers a powerful reminder of how humanity is worn down by war and what is lost by those who survive it. The narrative covers more than a decade during the Thirty Years' War of 17th-century, in Europe. It focuses on the title characters as they follow the soldiers around a battle defaced Europe, selling them food, drink, clothing to make herself a living. As disenchanted as Mother Courage's view is of war, and as devoted as she is to her children, she needs it to survive. She pays dearly for this in terms of the lives of her kids. This play is about the stand up against the rise of Fascism and Nazism. This is a great example of Brecht's alienation effect; it is achieved through the use of title cards which reveal the events of each scene and several songs which underscore the themes of the play. The action of the play takes place over the course of 12 years, 1624 - 1636 represented in 12 short scenes. Within these scenes the audience is not given enough time to develop sentimental feelings or to empathise with any of the characters.
The social message within this play is to warn the economically destructive and socially damaging effects of war. Mother courage mocks those who commit themselves to war and those who lead the armies. Brecht also wanted to let the people of Germany know how they are contributing to Hitler's war. And regardless if you try to keep out of the war you were eventually drawn into its destruction.
Brecht insisted that Mother Courage was not a figure for whom one should primarily have sympathy for. He argued that if she had acted otherwise, things might have turned out differently. Brecht believed that the choices Mother Courage made could have avoided her family's fate. She fails to have the ability to have any independence and is persuaded to let the sergeant take Elif away in the first scene, through what Brecht was trying send across to the audience that war and business can be a good market but then everything is for sale. A big impact in mother courage is the use of very little props; the major prop used was Mother Courage's cart in which is her home and her business. Brecht symbolises the wagon as mother courage's situation in scene 1 it is full of commodities with her two sons to pull the cart but by the end of the play the cart is battered and nearly empty and she has to pull it herself. He uses the cart as the economic structure and its material centre which he sends the message of the morals of the play.
In scene three mother courage ties a washing line to the cannon which signifies the binding of war and economy. Mother courage goes through the war as if it was distanced form her and she goes about her business the fact that she plays an insignificant role, but is an essential part of the war doesn't exist to her. She is very self absorbed in herself surviving to make changes to the world around her. She loses her three children because of this and she does not learn from her mistakes. The Berliner ensemble tried to get the ending changed so she did learn but Brecht didn't want the audience to feel for the actors but learn from them. In Ibsen's plays he says "this is life isn't it terrible" where Brecht on the other hand says "this is life fix it" which tells the responder that he didn't want to glamorise his plays but give it the message to teach and speculate in the audiences mind what if, and how can I fix it. In the final. Such techniques of alienation are dominate to the play's conclusion, a closure that would illustrate how Courage has effectively learned nothing. Having lost another child while working and then initially denying her daughter's death, she quickly disposes of her corpse to return to the march: "I must get back into business." Thus, she takes up the wagon, hauling it across an empty stage recalling Scene 1. Courage comes full circle, remaining a lonely person who works endlessly at the business of war. This scene is to let the responder learn and ask questions of their own life that's the way Brecht had intended the play to end.
In the play the Caucasian chalk circle it is also another great example of Brecht's alienation effect he has used it as a play within a play, the prologue starts with an argument over a abandoned valley after WWII. One of the groups used to live in the valley and they were goat herders, the other group was the fruit farmers. Eventually the delegate decides that if the fruit farmers can put the land to better use than they should have the land. The peasants then afterwards have a party and the singer agrees to tell a story which is two stories that link up in the end. In this play Brecht uses song break up any emotional attachment from the audience, he also uses poetry and placards to address new scenes which also help the alienation effect. In this play he uses ideologies to get his point across without getting the audience caught up with the emotional centre of the characters. When Grusha ponders whether or not to rescue the abandoned baby, her thoughts are voiced by a chorus whilst she acts in silence this is a good example of alienation in this play. During this play Brecht makes the lights brightly lit at all times, no need for mood lighting because he didn't want the mood to be shown to the audience. The moral and message presented in this play is that both the child and valley be handed to those can use it to their full potential and serve it best.
There are 12 songs sung throughout the play. Four of which are sung by the singer. Brecht uses these songs to take away suspense from the play to imply the message much stronger. He also adds comedy to make light of an emotional scene in the play. In the Caucasian chalk Brecht took a different approach and it turned out happy for Grusha but the play its self is based towards communism that who should best provide should own it. In this play Grusha plays the good person in which he sends that people should strive to be like her, the cook comments to Grusha for her to give it up, the cook says "if he had the plague he couldn't be more dangerous." Grusha replies with, "He hasn't got the plague. He looks at me! He's human!" Brecht points out that this kindness is exploited. The old woman comments, "You're a fool - the kind that always gets put upon."
What Brecht does next is ruin the look of Grusha as she stole a child; he ruins this so the audience sees that she is not good. He leaves it up to the responders to decide if she should be punished or be seen as a hero. This scene represents the fruit farmers who had taken the land from the goat breeders and put the land to a better use. This is how he sends his message across to his audience. Brecht had stopped people from empathising with the characters in a similar way to mother courage he used narrative to explain the meaning but also relied on the actors to distance themselves from their characters so their emotions aren't conveyed while they acted, he also relied on other things such as very little props and basic stage lighting to ensure he's audience didn't feel for the actors.
Brecht applied simple techniques to attempt to express he's social or political message, these techniques were highly effective to keep the audience distanced and alienated from the characters such things mentioned above as well as epic theatre were a start to modern drama in which people could look at and successfully ask themselves questions on their life and the world around them. Brecht wanted to share his own political views threw he's play but he also encouraged that people kept an open mind and let the questions asked in his play's to swirl around in their heads and then allow themselves form an opinion on the subject. But to do this he had to use the alienation effect which made the difference to conveying he's message across. Brecht considered his plays to be epic because it attempted to create a whole new perspective of human history and to indicate the political direction to make things clearer.