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The Rep College - The Caucasian Chalk Circle

7th to 9th February 2003.

This was the Newbury Weekly News review.

Embracing Brecht

'CAUCASIAN CHALK CIRCLE', at New Greenham Arts, from Friday, February 7 to Sunday, February 9

Director David Tudor had perfectly captured the style and genre of Brecht in the Rep College's production of the Caucasian Chalk Circle.

The setting was a bare stage, with simple stage blocks that became a throne, a mountain or a bridge and a blue cloth to symbolise the river. The lighting was stark white with just a hint of red to suggest the burning of the city Costumes were basic white peasant tops or colourful tops suggesting rank and privilege.

The audience sat either side of a traverse stage with the actors sitting on the floor on the other two sides of the auditorium performing the many roles, as the script demanded. This was a classic interpretation of Brecht's theatre ideal for A-level students. All that was missing was the banners proclaiming political doctrines! Brecht did not want his audiences to become emotionally involved with the drama but rather to think and thus become his pupils; the actors his teachers and the theatre his classroom. This production embraced these principles with conviction.

This was the second production I have seen from the Rep College in three weeks and it really must be a challenge to present such a varied repertoire that they present in such a short period but this gifted company seem to thrive on it.

The plot centres around a kitchen maid, Grusha, delightfully played by Emma Hartley who saves the Governor's abandoned child during a coup in Georgia and how she has to face a custody case for the child adjudicated by the drunken rogue Asdak (an excellent performance by John Giles) in a Solomonic test of the chalk circle.

Amy Jessica gave an assured performance as the singer/narrator guiding the audience through the story with a detached poignancy.

There were many strong vignettes, Barbara King as the haughty Governor's wife; Mathew Spencer as Simon, the trusting ironshirt in love with Grusha and Dan Schuman as Lavrenti.

This was a beautifully crafted piece of theatre, very much a tight, powerful company performance that worked well in the studio space and was appreciated by a receptive and appreciative audience. Sterling stuff!