THE CAUCASIAN CHALK CIRCLE
by Bertolt Brecht
translated by Frank McGuinness
adapted by Ricky Dukes.
Songs by Robert Locke.
The Jack Studio Theatre, the Brockley Jack, to 12 March
410 Brockley Road, London SE4 2DH to 12 March 2016.
Runs 1hr 50 mins No interval.
TICKETS: 0333 066 3366.
Review: William Russell 25 February.
The best of Brecht, stimulating and relevant
This production by Ricky Dukes displays all the strengths that make the Lazarus Theatre Company so exciting to watch. This is ensemble acting at its best although some individual performances do stand out, notably Ashleigh Cordery as Grusha, the peasant who rescues the abandoned child of the local ruler during a revolution and pretends he is her own.
But, as is the way of an ensemble, she plays other parts and fades gently into the background. It is not a performance screaming for attention which would destroy the ensemble nature of the piece.
It is possibly Brecht’s most celebrated play, consisting of a play within a play which takes some following and the complexity of this staging – Dukes seems to have taken the Circle in he title literally and the action endlessly swirls round and round – makes the story sometimes hard to follow. But Lazarus is at its least best when it comes to the words, although this not being by Shakespeare helps. Set in Georgia, or so it is believed, this is actually anywhere today where there is revolution, armed gangs are marauding, people are struggling to survive and either resisting or cowering down and hoping for the best.
The action is ceaseless as characters emerge, disappear and then resurface. Songs are sung, banners are waved and the detritus of life – tables, discarded street signs, crates and banners are wheeled round and round. Eventually it gets rather wearing.
By the time one comes to the final sequence in which the judgement of Solomon that lies at the heart of the story – a judge is required to decide who shall have the child, Grusha or the real mother – one was beginning to want it all to stop.
The production is loud, there are sounds in the background to dig into the brain, and the constant movement begins to lose its effect as the law of diminishing returns clicks in. One longs for a moment of peace, But that said it is still an exciting, challenging play and this is a production to admire, one which, within the work of a gifted ensemble of players, contains some splendid individual moments. Does it, as Dukes argues, celebrate the power of the people? Perhaps, but it also celebrates the power of the individual to make a difference, to do something dangerous when all around are playing safe .
Simon: Jon Tozzi.
Aniko/Old Peasant/Woman: Pauline Nakirya.
Nanny/Fat Peasant: Paula Brett.
The Governor’s Wife/Mother-in-law/Ludovica: Grace Cheatle.
Adjutant/Inn keeper: Charles Warner.
Monk/Nephew: Adam Boyle.
Jessup/Shauva: Simao Ramos.
Fat Prince/Lavreenti/Irakli: Tom Woodward.
Director: Ricky Dukes.
Designer: Scorcha Corcoran.
Lighting Design: Stuart Glover.
Sound Design: Neil McKeown.
Costume Design: Rachel Dingle.
Associate Director: Gavin Harrington-Odedra.