"Epic Theatre turns the spectator into an observer, but arouses his capacity for action, forces him to take decisions...the spectator stands outside, studies." (Bertolt Brecht. Brecht on Theatre. New York:Hill & Yang, 1964. p37)
The concept of "epic theatre" was brought to life by German playwright, Bertolt Brecht. This direction of theatre was inspired by Brecht's Marxist political beliefs. It was somewhat of a political platform for his ideologies. Epic theatre is the assimilation of education through entertainment and is the antithesis of Stanislavsky's Realism and also Expressionism. Brecht believed that, unlike epic theatre, Expressionism and Realism were incapable of exposing human nature and so had no educational value. He conjectured that his form of theatre was capable of provoking a change in society. Brecht's intention was to encourage the audience to ponder, with critical detachment, the moral dilemmas presented before them.
In order to analyse and evaluate the action occurring on stage, Brecht believed that the audience must not allow itself to become emotionally involved in the story. Rather they should, through a series of anti-illusive devices, feel alienated from it. The effect of this deliberate exclusion makes it difficult for the audience to empathise with the characters and their predicament. Thus, they could study the play's social or political message and not the actual events being performed on stage. This process is called Verfremdungseffekt, or the alienation effect, where instead of identifying with the characters, the audience is reminded that they are watching only a portrayal of reality. Several well-known Brechtian plays include Drums in the Night, Edward 2, The Threepenny Opera, Rise and Fall of the Town of Mahoganny, The Life of Galileo, The Good Person of Szechwan, Triple-A Plowed Under, One-Third of a Nation, Mother Courage and her children and the Caucasian Chalk Circle.
A play whose...