The Caucasian Chalk Circle

The Caucasian Chalk Circle
By Bertolt Brecht - translated by Eric Bentley. Brisbane Arts Theatre, Qld. Directed by Jane Oliffe. May 1 – 11, 2019.

Set in Georgia in the Caucasus, this epic play is one of the many plays and poems written by Bertolt Brecht and is a reflection of his thinking and, in some ways, his political beliefs. He brings to the storyline a reflection of his own life in the time of political instability, war and carnage as he developed his skills in various countries before returning to Berlin with many Marxist beliefs. He uses a baby to represent what is in dispute – the land and the people - and this becomes the symbol of unreason, disorder and injustice. This approach was different from the theatre form of the forties when it was written.

Director Jane Oliffe has used a cast of fifteen, most of whom played several roles, particularly the major ones. The set was basic and very functional to allow the necessary sweeping changes in time and place. Most performers were in neutral black and they sat on stage so as to maintain the essential speed of the action of the play. Thus we followed the baby left by the fleeing wife of the executed governor, rescued and reared by the peasant maid Grusha until its fate is determined by Judge Azdahi. How like the world around them – and us to some degree.

It seemed to me that this production had been edited to some extent from my memory of my reading of the play. It worked well. Congratulations to the main players for their various character roles that were vital to the success of the overall performance. Some of the minor characters needed a little more oomph and clarity in delivery but really no one missed a beat. I would be more specific but the cast list did not indicate the roles being played.

To attempt this play was an ambitious undertaking and I must congratulate the director, cast and crew for succeeding so well.  I am glad I had the chance to see this production of The Caucasian Chalk Circle.

William Davies

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