Multi-Functional Simplistic Sets: Examples in Brecht Plays
The teacher reads the following ten examples from some of Brecht’s more well-known plays that demonstrate how the stagecraft employs multi-functional, simplistic sets partly to focus the audience’s attention on the narrative and thematic elements of the play.
“Mother Courage and Her Children”
The wagon that Mother Courage pulls along serves multiple purposes. It’s a mobile canteen, a shelter, and a symbol of her profiteering from the war. The wagon could be the set for multiple scenes, encapsulating different locales and themes.
“The Caucasian Chalk Circle”
The central stage feature is often the chalk circle itself, which can also be used as a meeting place, a court, or other communal areas, reflecting the changing settings within the play. Other simple props, like a chair or a table, can be brought in to signify different places.
“The Good Person of Szechwan”
The set often consists of simple, skeletal frameworks of buildings or interiors that can easily transform from Shen Te’s shop to Shui Ta’s office, for example.
“The Threepenny Opera”
Often staged with minimalistic sets that can easily transition from a street setting to Peachum’s office to a saloon while maintaining a stylistic consistency that serves the Brechtian objective.
“The Life of Galileo”
The telescope is a recurring element that serves different purposes, from a scientific instrument to a symbol of the conflict between science and authority. The settings can also be minimal, shifting from Galileo’s chamber to the church court with just a few set pieces.
“Fear and Misery of the Third Reich”
Due to the episodic nature of the play, the set is often minimal and versatile, with props and pieces that can be easily rearranged to indicate different settings, such as a home, an office, or a street.
“The Life of Galileo”
The set often includes simple, scholarly articles like books and astronomical models, which can be used in various settings—Galileo’s home, the university, and even the church court.
“Saint Joan of the Stockyards”
The set often utilises stark, industrial elements that can be rearranged to represent various locations within the meatpacking and stockyard business world.
“Man Equals Man”
The set often includes items like barrels or crates that can serve different functions, symbolising a bar, a fort, or a marketplace at different times.
“The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui”
The set often includes elements common to multiple settings like a courtroom and a warehouse, such as chairs or tables, enabling a fluid transition between scenes.