Unity Theatre began on 19 February 1936, formed out of a workers' drama group. Its aims and objects are printed in the programme inviting people to join the society: 'to foster and further the art of drama in accordance with the principle that true art, by effectively presenting and truthfully interpreting life as experienced by the majority of people, can move the people to work for the betterment of society'.
The combination of this drive for performance with a social conscience made for a perfect match with the impulses behind Bertolt Brecht's alienation effect. So it was no surprise when Unity Theatre produced the English language London premiere of Brecht's Mother Courage and her Children in 1958. The plain and simple programme also follows Unity's ethos of not spending money on unnecessary luxuries.
Set in the 1630s, the play follows Mother Courage as she trails along with the Swedish armies through the terrible Thirty Years' War with her mobile canteen and three children, each by a different man. By the time he wrote Mother Courage in 1939, Brecht had fully developed his dramatic theory of the alienation effect. As Unity's aim was to help in the struggle for world peace and a better social and economic order, the concept that the audience should be forced to think about the play's relation to reality was a useful one. Unity borrowed the costumes from the Theatre Workshop, Stratford, which had presented the play in Barnstaple, but without a full orchestral score.