Wed. May 22nd, 2024

Review – The Caucasian Chalk Circle at Rose Theatre, Kingston

By Phebe Williams Oct 7, 2022
Cast of The Caucasian Chalk Circle on stage during a sceneThe Caucasian Chalk Circle cast Photo by Iona Firouzabadi

This new production of Brecht’s classic by Steve Walters, is the first in London for 25 years.

A story of war and justice it focusses on the human element, creating something that feels very relevant today.

It opens on a present day refugee camp, with the people squabbling over who gets to go home first and what support they can expect when they get there. 

When the singer (Zoe West) turns up, the bickering stops and the play-within-a-play begins. 

Zoe West on stage in The Caucasian Chalk Circle
Zoe West in The Caucasian Chalk Circle. Photo by Iona Firouzabadi

The Caucasian Chalk Circle by the German playwright Bertolt Brecht is a pure example of epic theatre, and truly left the audience in shock.

Carrie Hope Fletcher as the maid Grusha shines through in new adaptation of Brecht’s war time parable in the heart of Kingston.

As a revolution begins, the Governor’s wife abandons her baby in order to save herself.

The maid Grusha (Carrie Hope Fletcher) takes the child and raises him as her own as she flees the town.

When the war is over and the Governor’s wife returns wanting her child back, it is down to the corrupt judge Azdak, to decide who should keep the child.

This is where we hear of the title line, the Chalk Circle.

Brecht’s style shines through with actors playing multiple roles, and over 50 characters for the actors to go through.

It’s a play filled with wildly comic characters and villains that gives off a feeling of being at a panto.

Carrie Hope Fletcher on stage in The Caucasian Chalk Circle
Carrie Hope Fletcher in The Caucasian Chalk Circle Photo by Iona Firouzabadi

The play spanned nearly three hours including the interval making the night a long one, and audience members wondering how the play will end.

The second act felt like it lost momentum and some interest as the focus shifts to the judge trials and his backstory of how he became the judge, leaving the theatre goer wanting to know what has happened to Grusha and the infant.

However, Jonathan Slinger as the judge Azdak draws us in with his fierce performance and some much needed comic relief, eliciting a fair share of laughs from inside the house.

Carrie Hope Fletcher shows how much of a talent she is when playing Grusha bringing Michael Henry’s score to life with some beautifully executed musical moments.

There were also group acapella moments, some that would fit in just right in a Barden Bella number.

Picture of the Set
The Caucasian Chalk Circle set. Photo: Phebe Williams

Overall the production felt more fun than you would normally expect from a Brecht play.

If you know the history the playwright and how epic theatre works, then you won’t be surprised at the outcome of The Caucasian Chalk Circle and for this reason I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Epic theatre addresses contemporary issues using a narrator, harsh lighting, minimal set, general lack of names for the characters, and the use of song ironically. This production had them all.

This production of Brecht will appeal to fans and those who love the play. I’m sure they will be rushing to the Rose.

The Caucasian Chalk Circle runs at the Rose Theatre until October 22.

By Phebe Williams

Editor / Reporter Interests include - telling stories, arts and entertainment, books, magazines and Formula 1

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