Question: What is epic theatre? Discuss the features of epic theatre. Or, Definition and features of Epic theatre

Epic theatre

Epic theater is a theatrical movement that arose in the mid-twentieth century from the theories and practices of multiple theater practitioners who responded to the political climate of the day by creating a new political drama. Epic theater emphasizes the audience’s perspective. The purpose of epic theater is not to encourage the audience to suspend their disbelief but to force them to see their world as it is.

The developer of the epic theatre

Bertolt Brecht wrote his plays in accordance with certain principles of drama which he evolved on the basis of the concept of the epic theatre which had been initiated by a German theater director and producer Erwin Piscator. Brecht took hold of this concept and enlarged it into a full-fledged theory. Though this theory did not come from Brecht’s mind in a fully developed form, it continued to develop in his critical writings as time passed. In fact, his epic theater did not have a single theory, it had several theories, and in order to adjust or synthesize a harmonious whole, they must be seen together. In accordance with the leading principle of his concept of the epic theatre, the action of his renowned play “Mother Courage and Her Children” covers a span of about twelve years (1624-1636), depicting European life in the thirties of the twentieth century.

In contrast to the tradition of the Aristotelian drama and in accordance with the concept of the epic theatre, Brecht’s “Mother Courage and Her Children” consists of a number of loosely connected episodes. In accordance with the same concept, Brecht makes use of songs that are scattered throughout the play and he also makes use of the technique of what he has called “distancing” or “alienation” or “estrangement” in order to enable his audience to view the events and the characters with detachment and with a critical mind, without unduly identifying themselves with any of the characters. There is thus no doubt that Mother Courage and Her Children is a highly innovative play; and this play, like Brecht’s Life of Galileo and The Caucasian Chalk Circle, is a landmark in the history of European drama in the opinion of the most critics.

The features of epic theatre

  1. Vast time duration
  2. Historical characters
  3. Loosely plot construction
  4. Widely use of songs
  5. Use of the technique of ‘distancing’, or ‘alienation’ or ‘estrangement’.

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SR Sarker
SR Sarker
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