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Mother Courage and Her Children - The Royal Arsenal Site

Preview by Lizzie Guilfoyle

IN THE year the nation commemorates the 100th anniversary of the start of World War One, Bertolt Brecht’s most famous play, Mother Courage and Her Children will be brought vividly to life against a backdrop of cannons.

A promenade performance – September 5 to September 21, 2014 – it draws on the Woolwich Arsenal’s history as part of Britain’s war machine, and highlights the human cost of surviving conflict.

Audiences are invited to become war refugees, engaging with a cast of professional actors and a Community Chorus of 30 local people. They will go on a dramatic journey through the site, experiencing Woolwich’s own war history, and the historic Royal Arsenal Site itself through drama, poetry and song.

Mother Courage, a canteen woman, pulls her cart with her three children in the wake of an army, trading with the soldiers and attempting to make profit from the Thirty Years’ War. Her wheeling and dealing allows her family to thrive for a time, but she ultimately pays the price for her profiteering, leaving the audience to question who really gains.

Written in 1939, Mother Courage is one of the nine plays that Brecht wrote to counter fascism and Nazism and this important text retains relevance to this day in the light of conflicts in Syria, Iraq and Crimea.

Mother Courage and Her Children is presented by Greenwich & Lewisham Young People’s Theatre and Teatro Vivo, and is directed by Sophie Austin, founder of Teatro Vivo.

As well as directing many of Teatro Vivo’s shows, Austin’s assistant and associate directing credits include Old Times directed by Ian Rickson, One Thousand and One Nights with Tim Supple, Absent Friends directed by Jeremy Herrin at the Harold Pinter Theatre, and The Heretic by Richard Bean at the Royal Court.

Greenwich & Lewisham Young People’s Theatre (GLYPT) have been creating theatre for and with young people from the ages 2-25 for over 40 years. They are a based at the Tramshed Theatre, and regularly tour schools with education projects such as the CHOICES programme, aiming to raise awareness of gang violence and culture amongst young people.

Teatro Vivo are a South London based company who transform much loved stories into theatrical adventures, collaborating with communities and audiences since 2005 to create powerful theatre in unusual spaces. Past productions include After the Tempest in parks across London, The Odyssey in Deptford High Street and Adventures in Wonderland that has toured to museums, libraries and theatres across the UK. They are associate artists of The Watermill Theatre and The Albany, Deptford.

The cast of Mother Courage and Her Children includes Kas Darley, Denise Orita, Mark Stevenson, James Traherne and Michael Wagg. Design is by Jane Mackintosh and Gordon Allum.

The Royal Arsenal carried out armament manufacture, ammunition proofing and explosives research during WWI and WWII. It was established in the late 17th Century, and the factory closed in 1967. It has been open to the public since 1994 when the Ministry of Defence moved out and a major regeneration project commenced.

Part of the Tall Ships Festival, Mother Courage and Her Children is suitable for ages 12+.

Tickets: £12, £7 concessions – available on 020 8854 1316 or online at

Times: September 5 – 7: Friday 5 at 6.30pm, Saturday 6 and Sunday 7 at 11am and 6.30pm; September 10 – 21: Wednesday and Thursday at 10am and 1.30pm, Friday at 1.30pm and 7.30pm, Saturday and Sunday at 2pm and 6pm.

Running Time: 100 minutes (no interval).

Starting Point: Gate House on Beresford Square.

Royal Arsenal Riverside, Woolwich, London, SE18 6FB