Theatre de complicite, Caucasian Chalk Circle

Review in Issue 9-2 | Summer 1997

For the past two decades, Brecht’s plays have been lost to the wilderness. Politically unfashionable and expensive to stage (large casts), his works have often been confined to drama schools and the fringe. But no longer – Theatre de Complicite are presenting The Caucasian Chalk Circle at the Olivier Theatre, the first time the National has staged the production in over twenty years.

Set in Georgia, The Caucasian Chalk Circle is the parable of Grusha, a peasant woman who raises a boy, Michael, abandoned by the Governor of her state. Setting aside her life to care for him, Grusha is forced to contest her parental rights when the Governor and his wife return. Does the boy belong to the woman who bore him or the woman who raised him? An apt question in these frenzied days of surrogate motherhood and illegal adoptions.

Theatre de Complicite’s newly commissioned version from Frank McGuiness, the Irish playwright, isn’t Complicite’s most innovative piece, but it’s a thoughtful and balanced work which serves the play well. And it’s a nice touch to perform it in the round. The main strength of the production is the ensemble in which the leads – Juliet Stevenson, Simon McBurney and Jeffery Kissoon – emerge and merge effortlessly. Their characters are full but never out of balance with the company. The music too from the ever fantastic Gerard McBurney was intoxicating and lyrical.

The only disappointments were the puppets which periodically died in the hands of their manipulators and a young boy playing the part of Michael, when a Complicite regular could have done so much more.

Presenting Artists
Presenting Venue
Date Seen
  1. Apr 1997

This article in the magazine

Issue 9-2
p. 21