Poignant anti-war play performed with courage

Mother Courage, Seckford Theatre, Woodbridge School

I reluctantly confess to groaning inwardly when I heard that the Woodbridge School Sixth Form’s drama production at the Seckford Theatre was to be a Brecht play. I recall a critic writing of Brecht that he was ‘worthy but stodgy’, and that was certainly born out by everything that I had ever seen of Brecht.

What I had not prepared myself for was to be quite blown away by the sheer ingenuity, originality, enthusiasm and utter brilliance of the spectacle. Never before, have I seen young people so totally at one with their craft. From the opening scene, with the Sergeant and Recruiting Officer scanning the landscape for future cannon fodder I was transfixed by a production that was modern, gripping, well-acted and brilliantly staged.

The musical set-pieces were the glue which bound the whole production. Sharp Kurt Weill-like lyrics were beautifully rendered by the soaring vocals of Jade Foster who was ably supported by an excellent live band, often backed up by harmonies from performers, up to and including the entire cast. Add to the mix the well-planned sets, the minimalist props, the clever mixture of ancient-and-modern costumes – and we were served with a wonderful cocktail of a play.

And the performances! The production, however elegantly staged and presented would have been as nought had not the acting come up to scratch. Strong acting and excellent performances by the caste, both leading and supporting, underpinned this wonderful production. Special mentions must go to Lydia Cooper for her superb portrayal of the mute Kattrin, and the excellent Eleanor Dodd in the eponymous role who mastered superbly the complexities of the role – from the tormented and soulful bereaved mother to the callous harpie. Special mention must also go to the hugely versatile Thomas Guttridge, endearing as the yobbish rake Eilif, disturbing as the blood-spattered war hero cycnically feted by his superiors, and pitiable as the soldier ill-adjusted to an inconvenient peace, being led way to execution by his peers.

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Fired by enthusiasm, teamwork and hard-earned skills, the Sixth-Formers of Woodbridge School staged a superlative piece of theatre, a superbly poignant realisation a fiercely anti-war play – and worthy of any top-notch professional theatrical company.

They are to be congratulated and applauded. In fact, I can’t wait for their next outing!

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Hugh Gatenby

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