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"What is Brechtian?"

A style of drama that emphasizes the mechanical techniques of stagecraft over illusion.

Bend and Break the Rules: The Brechtian Approach to Creating Engaging Drama

In contrast to the illusionist approach of traditional theatre, Brechtian theatre aims to challenge the audience's preconceived notions of reality and encourage critical reflection on social and political issues. This style of drama emphasizes the mechanical techniques of stagecraft over illusion, often breaking the fourth wall, using song and episodic structure, and directly addressing the audience.

The style takes its name from German playwright and poet Bertolt Brecht, who sought to create a new kind of theatre that would awaken people to the social and political realities of the world. Brechtian theatre is characterized by a focus on dialectics - the clash between opposing forces - and seeks to expose the underlying social structures that perpetuate inequality and oppression.

The Brechtian approach has had a significant impact on contemporary theatre, influencing playwrights such as Caryl Churchill and David Edgar. Its legacy can be seen in the works of contemporary playwrights who seek to engage audiences by breaking the rules of traditional theatre and forcing them to think critically about the issues at hand.

Breaking Down the Brechtian: Examples of the Style in Literature

Check out two examples of Brechtian style in literature.

The Threepenny Opera by Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill

One of Brecht's most famous works, this play features songs that underscore the political themes and deliberately break the illusion created by traditional theatre, encouraging the audience to think critically about the social structures and power dynamics on display.

Top Girls by Caryl Churchill

Churchill's play employs a variety of Brechtian techniques, including episodic structure and direct address to the audience, to explore the challenges faced by women in a male-dominated society.