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National Theatre Wales
7 - 22 May 2015

Mother Courage and Her Children

by Bertolt Brecht
in a translation by John Willett
Revised by Ed Thomas
Lyrics revised by Dafydd James and Ed Thomas
Director: John E McGrath

Merthyr Labour Club, Merthyr Tydfil

National Theatre Wales returns to its birthplace in the south Wales valleys for the first production in its fifth season - a bold, anarchic  new version of Bertolt Brecht’s 1939 anti-war play performed in and around the Merthyr Labour Club.

Hinterland creator Ed Thomas returns to the stage to adapt, NTW artistic director John McGrath will direct and My Name is Sue composer Dafydd James will write original music, mixing Brecht’s world with the Saturday-night spirit of Merthyr. 

Mother Courage has been described as the greatest play of the twentieth century. Performed by a cast of nine great Welsh actresses, in the gutsy English of the South Wales Valleys, and in the context of our own unending wars, this will be a defiantly twenty-first century version.

Suitable for ages 14+ - Contains some strong language

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Mother Courage and Her Children

Creative Team

By Bertolt Brecht

Translation by John Willett

Revised by Ed Thomas

Lyrics revised by Dafydd James &
Ed Thomas

Director John E McGrath

Designer Jean Chan

Composer, Musical Director & Arrangement
Dafydd James

Lighting Designer Natasha Chivers

Sound Designer Mike Beer

Video Designer Ian William Galloway

Movement Director Jo Fong

Music production & arrangement
Dan Lawrence

Emerging Director Rhiannon White


Donna Edwards

Sara McGaughey

Rhian Morgan

Sharon Morgan

Gaynor Morgan-Rees

Cathy Owen

Nicola Reynolds

Ri Richards

Eiry Thomas

Best work of theatre of the year, so far!? Gut-wretching, hilarious and alert

There is absolutely no excuse not to see Mother Courage in Merthyr

the acting is top notch… In fact, there isn't a weak link and - ably supported by a gloriously voiced community choir - they prove that when it comes to established actresses, Wales is richly served

The play’s message - that you can't profit from war without also suffering losses - comes through loud and clear in Thomas’ version, which has a directness that seems true both to Brecht and the Valleys.

Rhian Morgan gives a suitably ballsy, brassy performance here as the ultimate Mam of Merthyr.

imaginatively conceived and coherently realised - not to mention bracingly rude.



It’s as though Brecht’s polemic… has sprung directly from the fabric of the very building

the tension in the room is palpable


I guess every director has a list of plays that they want to direct some day. Mother Courage has long been up at the top of my list - I was just waiting for the right moment, and the right place. The spirit of south Wales, particularly a town like Merthyr, feels very close to the questions of the play. What will we do to survive? What kind of cunning and know-how might carry us through the worst of times?  

Mother Courage is a great observer of the people around her - she has an opinion on everyone. And Brecht always encourages us to see why people behave in the way they do. What would it be like, I wondered, if all the play’s characters were performed by women like Mother Courage? What might some of our greatest actresses have to show us about the men who make and act upon the decisions that affect us all?  

So here we have it - Mother Courage in Merthyr, performed by a cast of Mother Courages, in Ed Thomas’ extraordinary ‘Valleys English’ with music by Dafydd James that channels a raucous Welsh night out. Absolutely the right time and place.  

John E McGrath

John E McGrath is the artistic director of National Theatre Wales. He also directed the company’s first production, Alan Harris’ A Good Night Out in the Valleys and The Opportunity of Efficiency at Japan’s New National Theatre, Tokyo, as well as Gary Owen’s Love Steals Us from LonelinessIn Water I’m Weightless by Kaite O’Reilly and Tim Price’s award-winning The Radicalisation of Bradley Manning.


Mother Courage and Her Children