Interruptions (epic theatre)

The technique of interruption pervades all levels of the stage work of the German modernist theatre practitioner Bertolt Brecht—the dramatic, theatrical and performative. At its most elemental, it is a formal treatment of material that imposes a "freeze", a "framing", or a change of direction of some kind; something that is in progress (an action, a gesture, a song, a tone) is halted in some way.[1]

The technique of interruption produces an effect on the dramatic level akin to the 'pair of scissors' that Brecht imagines cutting a drama into pieces, "which remain fully capable of life";[2] the metaphor of the cut is a pertinent one, as the technique bears striking similarities to the principles of montage being developed in the Soviet Union contemporaneously with Brecht's "epic theatre" (by the film-makers Eisenstein, Vertov, Pudovkin, and Kuleshov).[3]


  1. Leach (1994, 130–135) and Benjamin (1983, 3–5, 11–13, 18–19, 21, 23–25).
  2. "The epic writer Döblin provided an excellent criterion when he said that with an epic work, as opposed to a dramatic, one can as it were take a pair of scissors and cut it into individual pieces, which remain fully capable of life" (Brecht 1964, 70).
  3. Leach (1994, 131).

Works cited

  • Benjamin, Walter. 1983. Understanding Brecht. Trans. Anna Bostock. London and New York: Verso. ISBN 0-902308-99-8.
  • Brecht, Bertolt. 1964. Brecht on Theatre: The Development of an Aesthetic. Ed. and trans. John Willett. British edition. London: Methuen. ISBN 0-413-38800-X. USA edition. New York: Hill and Wang. ISBN 0-8090-3100-0.
  • Leach, Robert. 1994. "Mother Courage and Her Children". In Thomson and Sacks (1994, 128–138).
  • Thomson, Peter and Glendyr Sacks, eds. 1994. The Cambridge Companion to Brecht. Cambridge Companions to Literature Ser. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-41446-6.

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