I watched aplay written by Bertolt Brecht in the Greenwich Theatre on the 29thMarch 2017. The play is called ‘Caucasian Chalk Circle’ (1944). By watching thepiece in theatre I was able to get a better understanding of the play andmessage of the piece as a whole. The piece is based on an ancient Chinese playhowever Brecht changed and adapted the story to a Soviet Civilisation afterWorld War 2.
Through watching the play, I understood that the play is acommunist play and was an unusual play for Bertolt Brecht as the play has ahappy ending and all is well for main character Grusha. This is similar toBerkoff as Berkoff also recreated existing works in his own theatricalstyle,’total theatre’.The story isset in a Soviet Country, just after the end of WW2, in the beginning of thepiece Natella, deceased Governor’s wife, is forced to flee the country followingher husband’s execution. She however forgets her son, Michael, behind as she ismore 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 yearsand they go through many challenges in order to survive.
She later moves inwith her brother and is forced to marry another man although saying she wouldwait for her one true love Simon Chachava. A legal court case opens afterNatella wants Michael back for the Governor’s money. We then meet a corruptjudge called, Azdak, who accepts bribes and sides with the more wealthy peoplein the court.
To realise who is the mother of the child, Azdak demands thatthey place Michael in a chalk circle and pull the child from his arms. HoweverGrusha does not want to hurt Michael therefore she lets go of the rope and thejudge believes that the mother of Michael is Grusha.’CaucasianChalk 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 tothe 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 awritten banner which tells the audience an underlying message which thecharacters don’t vocalise on stage. Another technique Brecht uses during”Caucasian Chalk Circle” is the use of song and dance. In this piece, the musicoften does not fit in with the style or emotion of the piece.
This distancesthe audience further away from the performance. The final technique that Brechtuses in this piece is the use of multi-rolling. The technique multi-rolling iswhen a character plays more than one character during the performance.
Theseare effective techniques as they remind the audience they are watching a playand not feel emotions towards the characters or the situation in general. As anaudience member I was engaged in the audience, but did not emotionally connectto the characters. The play also made me think about Brecht’s theory.One scene inparticular where we see the most difference between the wealthy and poor publicand the most ‘Breaking the Mould’ techniques is in ‘The Noble Child’ Scene. Thescene explores Natella preparing for her flee and demanding her maids to packall her expensive clothes as she completely forgets about her son and herhusbands recent death. In the same scene Grusha and Simon get married as shesends him off to war. We can see that she is distraught and she cares deeplyfor him.
After Grusha returns home, she sees Michael abandoned and does not wantto leave him alone there; therefore she takes Michael and flees. This provesBrechts theory that wealthy people are selfish whereas poorer people are morekind and caring.Asignificant moment in this scene is when Natella complains to and threatens herservants for not packing her clothes “Don’t stand around, you! Stay right hereor ill get you whipped” This shows how much she cares for material itemsinstead of her child.
It also shows how people in the lower classes weretreated with less respect. Another significant moment in this scene is when wesee Grusha try to leave Michael behind however she feels bad and runs back toget Michael. This shows she is caring although she does not have any luxuries.’CaucasianChalk Circle” Is a piece which breaks the mould as Brecht it relates back tosocial issues and Brecht’s theory that rich people are often selfish whereaspoorer people are more considerate. The piece also challenges stereotypes asGrusha is considered as the ‘good’ character in the play, however she steals ababy but she does this with good intentions. This makes the audience think andquestion the character, which is what Brecht wanted.