I’ve just finished reading Brecht’s 1939 play, Life of Galileo. The only other play of Brecht I’ve read previously is Mother Courage and that was a good couple of years back when studying another module for college.
I’m not sure why Brecht has a reputation for writing boring plays (maybe as I read more I may well change that view), I found Life of Galileo, well written, well paced and a thoroughly entertaining and challenging play.
Personally I find it a positive sign when a play gets you interested in the playwright themself and also their other works. I’m starting to feel inspired to read more about Brecht himself and his influences and to read through his other plays. This is something that I seldom get from reading plays, the last notable playwrights I can remember being so fascinated with their other works and the playwright was after reading Sarah Kane’s play Blasted and Chekhov’s The Cherry Orchard. I’m sure some will feel that “the play should speak for itself”, that if I leave a play interested in their other work or in the person that maybe I’ve missed the point of the play. I’m not so sure, perhaps it’s because I see in the play / playwright, elements of myself and so wish to seek those out, to make more sense of the play, world and myself.
As I read Life of Galileo, I was struck by how contemporary it felt. The arguments between religion and science still abound, and while most (although I’m sure some fundamentalists somewhere disagree with Galileo) have accepted the science of Galileo which as Brecht brings out so well is to simply observe the solar system and see for ourselves. There still rages a battle between religion and science. With the 150th anniversaries last year surrounding Darwin’s publication of his Origin of Species, I’m surprised a revival of this play wasn’t put on, it highlights the issues Darwin faced and his theory still faces from fundamentalist religions.
Brechts use of a synopsis written in verse to be displayed to the audience before and during the scene, is a brilliant idea. Not only do these provide humor but also help with the thrust of the scene, Brecht didn’t want his plays to complicate the audience, the opposite was his aim. Many playwrights don’t have this attitude towards their audience, especially in our self centred society, it is often felt that the artist should create and the audience have to “get it”. Brecht wants his audience to “get it”, but is willing to help them on their discovery.
I’ve got a bit more reading to do, then my module takes me onto look at Joan Littlewood, however I have a feeling that Brecht will be one of the directors I examine for my assignment later this year, so they’ll be more musings on him soon.