The Complete Brecht Toolkit
Nick Hern Books
It is perhaps inevitable that, having published a toolkit on Stanislavsky, Nick Hern Books would feel the need to commission a similar volume on that other great theatre theoretician Bertolt Brecht.
Stephen Unwin seems perfectly qualified to take on the job as a director who has worked on the plays of the German genius but also directed using its precepts.
The book is split into various sections with the final comprising 50 exercises likely to be of most value to purchasers who feel a need to understand the complex and often counterintuitive ideas that made Brecht the genius that he was.
These have been carefully compiled to bring out almost all other threads explained in the first 150 pages.
Initially, Stephen Unwin creates a personal and political context and also identifies the theatrical influences that fed into the creative work of the writer/director. This section contains some surprises, starting with the Bible and covering most of the major theatrical eras.
Perhaps the most important section is that on the theory, looking at the key concepts such as the alienation effect, epic theatre and gestus as well as others that are less influential.
The practical section is also relevant, covering acting and directing but so much more with particular concentration on staging Brecht's plays today and also putting the skills that one has learned into action when working on Shakespeare's plays.
Prior to the exercises, Stephen Unwin runs through for his own productions each of which owed much to his hero.
This book pretty much does what it says on the cover and is likely to be of most benefit to students as well as young actors and directors.
Reviewer: Philip Fisher