The Caucasian Chalk Circle (4 stars)

Brecht's revolutionary play gets with the beat in this Lyceum adaptation

The Caucasian Chalk Circle

credit: Alan McCredie

Mark Thomson’s direction of Bertolt Brecht’s celebrated The Caucasian Chalk Circle takes the potent script and ramps it up, thanks to the Lyceum’s ability to gather a large cast and capture the dynamic storytelling that drives the clear political message.

It begins with a village meeting and a discussion about who is to own and manage a piece of land, before acting out the story of a young servant girl – enveloped by a city ravaged by revolution – who must decide whether to save her own skin or take on the responsibility of mothering a child abandoned by her wealthy mother as an illustrative parable.

The stage, deep and wide, shifts and breathes like the many characters treading the boards, changing its face with the many moods of the play. High above, the moon glistens and stares down, and the words ‘Terrible is the seductive power of goodness’ shine like the luminous lights of a nightclub. And as the band booms and the actors explode into life, it becomes abundantly clear that the over two and a half hour running time is not going to drag.

At the heart of the music is Sarah Swire: the very epitome of cool, she composes the action with confidence and swagger. With the actors jumping between roles, however, the performance of the evening has to go to Deborah Arnott, as the Sergeant: she rages like a mad bull across the stage, wild eyed, vicious and uncompromising.

Endlessly inventive, expertly acted and wonderfully bonkers, this is an enjoyable presentation of Brecht’s deeply serious meditation on power and responsibility. Littered with razor sharp humour and some beautiful imagery, don’t be surprised to find your feet still tapping to the irresistible rhythm of the revolution when the show finally comes to an end. A truly exceptional evening.

Caucasian Chalk Circle

A production of Bertolt Brecht's famous drama, which tells the powerful story of two women who both claim to be the mother of a child. This performance has been translated by Scottish writer Alistair Beaton and directed by the Lyceum's artistic director Mark Thomson.


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