Last updated: August 27, 2019
Topic: ArtTheatre
Sample donated:

I watched a
play written by Bertolt Brecht in the Greenwich Theatre on the 29th
March 2017. The play is called ‘Caucasian Chalk Circle’ (1944). By watching the
piece in theatre I was able to get a better understanding of the play and
message of the piece as a whole. The piece is based on an ancient Chinese play
however Brecht changed and adapted the story to a Soviet Civilisation after
World War 2.Through watching the play, I understood that the play is a
communist play and was an unusual play for Bertolt Brecht as the play has a
happy ending and all is well for main character Grusha. This is similar to
Berkoff as Berkoff also recreated existing works in his own theatrical
style,’total theatre’.

The story is
set in a Soviet Country, just after the end of WW2, in the beginning of the
piece Natella, deceased Governor’s wife, is forced to flee the country following
her husband’s execution. She however forgets her son, Michael, behind as she is
more occupied with packing her makeup and clothes. Grusha, a servant amid,
takes Michael in and goes on the run. She looks after Michael for a few years
and they go through many challenges in order to survive. She later moves in
with her brother and is forced to marry another man although saying she would
wait for her one true love Simon Chachava. A legal court case opens after
Natella wants Michael back for the Governor’s money. We then meet a corrupt
judge called, Azdak, who accepts bribes and sides with the more wealthy people
in the court. To realise who is the mother of the child, Azdak demands that
they place Michael in a chalk circle and pull the child from his arms. However
Grusha does not want to hurt Michael therefore she lets go of the rope and the
judge believes that the mother of Michael is Grusha.

Chalk Circle can be considered as one of Brecht’s most controversial works.

This is because the use of Brecht’s techniques were unusual and different to
the traditional theatre in them times. This is known as ‘Breaking the Mould.’
Some of these techniques include the use of placards, which is a sign or a
written banner which tells the audience an underlying message which the
characters don’t vocalise on stage. Another technique Brecht uses during
“Caucasian Chalk Circle” is the use of song and dance. In this piece, the music
often does not fit in with the style or emotion of the piece. This distances
the audience further away from the performance. The final technique that Brecht
uses in this piece is the use of multi-rolling. The technique multi-rolling is
when a character plays more than one character during the performance. These
are effective techniques as they remind the audience they are watching a play
and not feel emotions towards the characters or the situation in general. As an
audience member I was engaged in the audience, but did not emotionally connect
to the characters. The play also made me think about Brecht’s theory.

One scene in
particular where we see the most difference between the wealthy and poor public
and the most ‘Breaking the Mould’ techniques is in ‘The Noble Child’ Scene. The
scene explores Natella preparing for her flee and demanding her maids to pack
all her expensive clothes as she completely forgets about her son and her
husbands recent death. In the same scene Grusha and Simon get married as she
sends him off to war. We can see that she is distraught and she cares deeply
for him. After Grusha returns home, she sees Michael abandoned and does not want
to leave him alone there; therefore she takes Michael and flees. This proves
Brechts theory that wealthy people are selfish whereas poorer people are more
kind and caring.

significant moment in this scene is when Natella complains to and threatens her
servants for not packing her clothes “Don’t stand around, you! Stay right here
or ill get you whipped” This shows how much she cares for material items
instead of her child. It also shows how people in the lower classes were
treated with less respect. Another significant moment in this scene is when we
see Grusha try to leave Michael behind however she feels bad and runs back to
get Michael. This shows she is caring although she does not have any luxuries.

Chalk Circle” Is a piece which breaks the mould as Brecht it relates back to
social issues and Brecht’s theory that rich people are often selfish whereas
poorer people are more considerate. The piece also challenges stereotypes as
Grusha is considered as the ‘good’ character in the play, however she steals a
baby but she does this with good intentions. This makes the audience think and
question the character, which is what Brecht wanted.