I went to see “Mother Courage and Her Children” on February 24th at the University Theatre at the University of Calgary. The play was a part of the University of Calgary’s School of Creative and Preforming Arts, drama program’s 2016-2017 season. Mother Courage was directed by graduate student Adrain Young and performed by drama students, as well as drama faculty member Val Campbell. After viewing this play and reading Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot, I decided that using some of the decisions made by Young and the creative team on Mother Courage, I could develop a performance of Waiting for Godot.
When watching Mother Courage and Her Children, there were three components of the performance in particular that struck me: the performance decisions made by the actors and director, the set design, and the effects that the lighting and sound had on the play as a whole. Firstly, the most entertaining, and in contrast also the least entertaining, aspects of this performance were seen in the performance decisions. I think the most interesting decision made by director Adrian Young, was the use of a faculty member as the main character. Using Val Campbell was a strong decision as she added an element of professionalism and a higher quality to the performance. Anther decision in the performance that was appealing as a viewer was the audience involvement in the performance. During the performance, the actors spoke directly to the audience members, asking them questions and directing their speeches directly to them. Another unique aspect Young used to involve the audience was to have the last act of the play presented in a reverse manner. The audience was asked to sit on the stage while the play’s action happened in the auditorium seating area. This allowed for an intense connection between the audience and the performers as they acted down on them. The last performance decision, which I found not particularly effective, was the inclusion of singing. Personally, I felt the singing was not performed very well and was not needed to enhance the play. Another aspect of this staging of Mother Courage that I did find interesting was the set design. The most appealing decision made about the set design was the fact that the set was not only on the stage, but it was also brought into the auditorium. And finally, I was intrigued by the use of lighting, sound and other effects. The most enjoyable part of this performance were the musicians that played live music. Along with the live music the lighting was very well done. The lighting rig was used as part of the set but also allowed for the use of a traveling spot light, which enhanced the experience for the audience.
After watching Mother Courage and her Children, I envisioned many ideas of how I would adapt Waiting for Godot. To start, the venue used for this rendition of Waiting for Godot would be a thrust stage. Using a thrust stage allows for a connection between the action on stage and the audience, which I found very impactful while watching Mother Courage. In Waiting for Godot, the characters make references to the fact that there is an audience watching them, which can be enhanced when the actors are closer to the audience. When casting for this performance of Godot I would call for an all female cast. I think this would bring a different energy to the play. The female cast members in Mother Courage were so strong in their character development, which made me think that these types of actresses would add an interesting addition to Godot. With the use of female cast members, the performance would exhibit a lot of differences in how the text can be delivered. Because this play has a limited set, I would want to add more so that I could include the audience to a greater extent, which I found so effective in Mother Courage. The only set actually on stage would be the Tree that is written into the play, but I would add fabric over some of the seats in the audience to make a river effect, adding to the overall scene. Lighting for this performance of Godot would be very minimal, with low light and darker colours. This would enhance the serious tone of the play. I would like to use live music in this performance, like in Mother Courage. I think this would add to the performance by enhancing the connection to the audience as well as allowing again for a more creative adaptation. For this version of Waiting for Godot, I would have the main characters dress in high fashion with very fancy clothing. I think this would add another layer to the characters by imposing on them a different approach to life and adding to their back stories. The Estragon character would also have some rips and tears in her costume to show that she has been attacked, as written in the script. There are a few changes I would have to make to the script to fit my adaptation of the text. Frist, I would need to alter the names of the character to make them more feminine; Estragon would be changed to Ester and Vladimer would be change to Val. I would also take out some of the stage directions in the text to allow for more freedom of creation for the actors and director. Taking away some of the stage directions would allow me to use the thrust stage more effectively and provide opportunities for more connection to the audience by leaving the stage and going into the audience or even directing some of the speech towards the audience.
When developing an adaptation of Waiting for Godot, taking aspects from Mother Courage I was able to invent a new vision for the play. By using a thrust stage and a set that uses part of the auditorium, the play is more relatable to the audience creating a stronger relationship.