Ideas on 'Setting the Stage' Bertolt Brecht

In the report on People and Places on assignment, my tutor suggested to have a look at Bertolt Brecht's ideas about staging and theatre. I had never heard of him before and it has been interesting to read about his ideas and the influences he has had on theater, but also on any form of narrative telling media. In relation to my assignment here are a few points that stand out to me and make me think more of the relationship that the viewer has with an image and how an image itself can work on that influence. Instead of creating a strong emotional connection with its audience, Brechts' plays are focused on distancing the audience in order that they can look at it objectively and from there on reflect on themselves and bring about change. He calls this the "Verfremdung Effect'. Here are a few lines from sites that I found particularly interesting:

'Esslin duly points out that his use of the V-effekt shows how conscious Brecht was of the audience's tendency to identification. He did not eliminate it, but modified and weakened it.

To discourage audience from identifying with character and so losing detachment, the action must continually be made strange, alien, remote, separate. To do this, the director must use any devices that preserve or establish this distancing.'.

'Verfremdungseffekt (the)

Translated (badly) as “Alienation-effect” and (awkwardly) as “Distantation-effect”. More accurately it is “the effect that makes things seem strange or different”. The term refers to the use of various devices to make things appear in a new light, so we consider them with intellectual objectivity, robbed of their conventional outward appearance.'

Moore, A. (2015). Brecht. [online] Available at: [Accessed 2 Nov. 2015].

'Directors, designers and dramatists were all influenced by Brecht's idea of an epic theatre in which narrative replaces plot, the spectator is turned into an observer rather than someone implicated in the stage action, and each scene exists for itself alone.'

Billington, M. (2013). Bertolt Brecht: irresistible force or forgotten chapter in theatrical history?. [online] the Guardian. Available at: [Accessed 2 Nov. 2015].

'The epic invites calm, detached contemplation and judgement; the dramatic overwhelms reason with passion and emotion, the spectator sharing the actor's experiences.

And, therefore, the audience must be made aware that events are not present events (happening now), but past events being represented as narrative, with commentary provided to encourage our own reflection.

While some playwrights have accepted particular Brechtian techniques, his general effect, to cause writers to seek new conventions of representing human experience, is more important.'

After reading these passages I'm wondering in which ways these ideas can be put into images and whether my own project reflects some of the distance that Brecht shows in his work. I remember that I did try to keep myself distant from the scene as much as possible and did not direct the children in any way to pose. Looking at the images after having read this, I recognize some of the stage elements: The half curtain, minimalist decoration and a seemingly incoherence in the images that could also stand on their own and breaking the 'fourth wall'. On the other hand, I wonder if the photographs show that they were taken by their mother, one of the most emotionally involved people in their lives and if that makes the viewer more connected to the images as well.

This site, gives a bullet point overview of characteristics of his plays. I think it would be nice to set up a similar scene for a series of photographs and see what kind of atmosphere will come across and in what sense I could think of a narrative that would suit an approach like this. Maybe in my next course!

Cash, J. (2014) Epic theatre conventions. Available at: (Accessed: 2 November 2015)

Moore, A. (2015). Brecht. [online] Available at: [Accessed 2 Nov. 2015]