The Caucasian Chalk Circle: Next Stage, Mission Theatre, Bath
The Caucasian Chalk Circle
Next Stage Theatre Co
Mission Theatre, Bath
Thought to be Brecht's best play, this is a parable about ownership and justice but on the way Brecht takes a swipe at whatever targets come his way – the military, the judiciary, the rich, the poor, intellectuals, all are on the receiving end of his often humorous dialogue.
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Starting after a war, two rural communities argue about who should manage the land; the previous small farmers and goatherds or more progressive fruit growers who will produce more.
But then we get a play within a play where: "It's our job to entertain you. Your job to draw conclusions."
After a war the local Governor is killed and his wife flees, leaving behind her child, who is then cared for by Grusha, a kitchen maid who escapes to the mountains with him, despite the hardships this entails. "Terrible is the seductive power of goodness," remarks the narrator.
A parallel story is that of the judge, Azdak, chosen as judge (the previous one having been hung) when the crowd are given the choice between him and aristocrat. Azdak gets the job as, "The judge was always a scoundrel, now let the scoundrel be judge."
Two years later, when the Governor's wife returns to claim the child as her own, Azdac has to decide if the child should remain with Grusha, who has raised him, or the Governors wife. Hence a test involving the Caucasian Chalk Circle.
There are many diversions on the way in this lengthy but always involving and entertaining play, performed fully in the round with minimal scenery, ie none, it's left to that best scene setter of all, imagination.
The large cast play the parts of many more characters well; often half a dozen each and with minimal costume changes.
Much more fun than this member of the audience anticipated, and as ultimately it's decided that, "Everything belongs by right to those who care for it," the play gives ample food for thought as well as entertainment.
It runs until Saturday.