The new production of Threepenny Opera by Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill, adapted by Simon Stephens, directed by Rufus Norris, has opened at the National Theatre to mostly very good reviews.
I was asked - rather at the last minute (maybe someone else fell through) - to write a programme note about Brecht. It came at a good time because in the last few years, Methuen (his publisher in Britain) have brilliantly revamped and expanded his works in translation with a hugely extensive reworking of the seminal collection Brecht on Theatre, but also new collections Brecht on Performance, Brecht on Art and Politics and a reissue of Brecht on Film and Radio. There's also been a translation of his novel The Business Affairs of Mr Julius Caesar and - just about to appear in an eye-wateringly expensive hardback - his Me-Ti: The Book of Interventions in the Flow of Things. The journals and short stories were reissued too. So I'd been relishing the chance to look at Brecht anew and had been devouring the new books.
I was asked to write a piece about Brecht how the theory developed, what his theatre was about and so on. I had a couple of goes writing something quite serious. But then it seemed to me that wasn't the tone of his own work - not the theatre, not the plays, not the theory - and I decided to do something much looser and a bit more pugnacious. So the piece is called 'Ten Cheers for Bertolt Brecht' and it offers ten reasons to love Brecht, his theatre and his politics, under headings like fun, theory, emotion, smoking, music, and learning. And I don't mention the word 'alienation' once.
And you can read it HERE.