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Edinburgh Fringe 2023

Mother Courage and Her Children

Theatre SanTuoQi

Genre: Adaptation, International, Physical Theatre

Venue: theSpaceTriplex


Low Down

A powerful new adaptation of Bertold Brecht’s classic anti-war play, interpreted by one of China’s leading directors of physical theatre and Edinburgh Fringe veteran Zhao Miao with his own company.


Based on Bertold Brecht’s classic anti-war play, renowned director Zhao Miao and his company Theatre SanTuoQi from China present their version of the story told by movement with no words.

It is a beautiful production and it is apparent that much work has gone into creating and producing it for this year’s Edinburgh Festival Fringe. The cast comprises seven actors who play a variety of individual characters as well as form an ensemble for narrative scenes.

Dressed in detailed and stylish costumes in mainly black and white, the cast take Mother Courage and us on her journey. The wide stage area provides a large space for the performers to create their imagery in several well transitioned scenes. Items are placed on the stage at the beginning of the piece that are used in the first scene of the play, and different costumes are placed to the side of the stage that actors add to their base costumes in view of the audience during the show.

The music is wonderful, perfectly selected and adds so much to this story that is elegantly told. Sound effects are also well integrated and support the storytelling. One of the most fascinating items in this play is the masks. They are unusual in design and very effective. These masks are wide, flat and extend beyond the face in what looks like a combination of linen and stiffer material – in black or white with simple suggested facial features.

Mother Courage is played admirably by the lead actor and she is compelling and emotive throughout the play. She is an immediate focus and we can empathise with her plight and challenges. During some of the visual storytelling scenes is not always clear what is happening but it is always beautiful and well performed with precision. A highlight is the moments of sustained visceral stillness and then changes to contrasting faster movement.

The stylised movement is very interesting from the entire ensemble and there is one modern music section where the movement style changes, which is fun. There are well-received humourous moments in between the dramatic narrative. Sight lines limit the view of scenes placed very low on the stage area suggest that a raised stage may benefit this production. This is a creative production of quality performed by a theatre company of well trained actors from China telling a fascinating story through stylised movement and physical acting.