THE CAUCASIAN CHALK CIRCLE by Bertolt Brecht
Nottingham Lace Market Youth Group.
The Caucasian Chalk Circle is a play by German modernist playwright Bertolt Brecht. The play, in a nutshell, is about a peasant girl who rescues a baby and becomes a better mother than its wealthy natural parents. She goes to court to win the baby from the birth mother as well as managing to release herself from a marriage which she had been tricked into and returns to the arms of her former beau, and they live happily ever after.
This strikes me as being a fairly new translation and is a very modern adaptation. I've seen this play before and it was, or so it seemed at the time, a very traditional and faithful version of Brecht's script. Not that this was not faithful, it's just very updated, in my eyes to introduce a younger audience to Brecht's humour. And there is a lot of humour in this play.
Typical of Brecht's "play within a play" we start off with the Prologue to make sure that we are made aware that what we are watching is a story that is being told by the actors who in the play are putting on a play.
You could not, by any stretch of the imagination call this a musical but there is music in the play, and I'm not sure if the music is traditional to the play or it's been composed by Joel Walker who provided the guitar accompaniment to the songs. Either way the music is a good compliment to the play, which by the way was written in 1944, and if the songs were original, a nice showcase of Joel's talents as a musician and songwriter.
Brecht's prolific writing has a very anarchic edge and this is brought out with great affect, and with being anarchic, provides some great over the top comedy moments. One of the young actors that springs to mind who delivered this style to great affect was Nick Ford, along with his sidekick Jake Booth as the two ladies who took to Grusha, the peasant girl, played with great consistency by Tilly Poynter-Symonds.
So many actors involved in this large cast but I can only mention a few that really caught my attention.Our narrator who made sure we did not lose the thread was played by Finn Doherty, Gareth Ellis as Lavrenti, Harris Allen as the foul mouthed and mucky minded Sergeant, and Robert Ryan as the drunken judge, Azdak, who did the right thing in the end.
A very male and macho play but there were plenty of female actors in subservient roles, sixteen in all to the twelve male parts with some of the cast doubling up in lesser roles.
A simple but effective set guaranteed that there were no distractions from the witty, bold and bawdy script. Although modern, the costumes remained faithful to the era of the play, and you could feel that Max Bromley who directed the piece must have had a ball directing this energetic and young group in a play which worked so well for that age group.
It may not be to every one's liking but it is worth going to see and supporting this talented bunch of young actors.
"The Caucasian Chalk Circle" is at the Nottingham Lace Market Theatre until Saturday 21 March 2015.