Brecht play is big challenge for Next Stage at Bath's Mission Theatre
Next Stage is performing Bertolt Brecht's The Caucasian Chalk Circle at the Mission Theatre, Bath from next Tuesday to Saturday.
Brecht's famous play is brought to life by a versatile ensemble of Next Stage actors. The multi-talented cast, performing in-the-round, transport the audience through war-torn villages, snow-capped mountains, opulent palaces and woody glens, recounting a young mother's quest to protect an abandoned baby.
This is a fast-paced piece of "epic theatre", culminating in the famous Chalk Circle test of true motherhood.
The Caucasian Chalk Circle is a wonderful and timeless fable with themes which remain relevant to our modern world.
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In the aftermath of a violent civil war, the people of a village in Grusinia are helped by a narrator to put on a play which tells two stories.
The first story tells of Grusha. She is a peasant girl engaged to a soldier, who rescues a rich baby during a violent revolution.
Threatened by pursuing soldiers and the prejudice of others, Grusha and the baby eventually escape to a kind of safety with her brother in the remote mountains – until the child's natural mother returns.
Then begins the tale of Azdak, a disreputable peasant. In the anarchy of the revolution he becomes a judge almost by accident and with his followers sets about gleefully enforcing his own very unusual interpretation of justice.
Eventually, the two stories come together when Azdak is given the job of deciding whether Grusha or the natural mother should keep the child - a decision which he makes by using the ancient test of the chalk circle.
Brecht's masterpiece entertains while raising fundamental questions about power and ownership.
Next Stage is performing Alistair Beaton's 2009 adaptation of the classic, with original music composed by company member Joshua Ward and performed live by the cast.
John Matthews is directing the show and says he chose it because it was Brecht, epic theatre and it allowed him to use his imagination. No small task when you think that at the Mission in the round he has to have three cottages, a stream, a mountain pass and masses more besides.
John stresses that despite the live music – singing, no instruments – it is not a musical.
"The songs simply help to tell the story," he says.
He also remembered that Brecht himself said that being a good actor was more important than being a good singer in the play.
The show runs from Tuesday to Saturday at 7.30pm.