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The Eight Moon Journey

The Importance of Choice

A key idea in Bechtian theatre is that of choice. Aristotlean drama has traditionally dealt with the idea of fate, that man’s destiny is out of his hands and whatever action a character makes the outcome is pre-destined. This was unsatisfactory for Brecht. How could he motivate an audience to change the world if they thought that there was no choice, no action that could change the pre-destined ‘fate’ of their lives? There is no better example than the genre of tragedy – a character that has a flaw that is part of their very nature is destined to fall from grace and there is nothing that can stop that fate. The audience is moved to tears by the character’s predicament and leaves the theatre sympathising with the character’s plight but blinded by the lack of choice the character seems to have.

The idea of choice is vital for Brecht. In Brecht’s plays, key moments revolve around a character’s decision and then the play analyses the results of those decisions. Using the conventions of Epic theatre Brecht can comment upon the choices made by a character and so keep the audience enlightened as to what the character has chosen to do and why, what the alternative options were and judge the eventual outcome. This is where Epic theatre can be seen clearly to be a style of performance as a written text in performance has an inevitability about the outcome for the actors, even Brecht’s plays – the actors know what happens in the end. It is the audience that need to be kept aware of choice. Therefore, a tragedy such as ‘Hamlet’ could be performed in an Epic style, highlighting the key choices Hamlet makes and using the narrative techniques of Epic – projections, placards, chorus etc – to show the audience the decisions made, the quality of the decision and the alternative choices available.

There are key moments of choice in ‘Our Country’s Good’ that we need to highlight for the audience in order to ensure they are aware that the events are not fated or pre-destined – choice plays a key role. Just some of these moments are:

There are other choices made that I intend to discover during rehearsal. The important staging decisions will be: how do we emphasise those moments of choice as being crucial to the progression of the narrative and even show that there is an alternative choice to be made.

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