Exploring the greatest new and classic plays


Carrie Hope Fletcher as Grusha
The Rose Theatre, Kingston, 2022
photo: Iona Firouzabadi

053 – The Caucasian Chalk Circle, by Bertolt Brecht

Oct 18, 2022 | Podcast Episodes | 0 comments

Bertolt Brecht wrote the first draft of The Caucasian Chalk Circle in 1944 while in exile in the United States. The play is a parable about the chaos and costs of war, which Brecht updated after his return to East Germany in 1948, including a new prologue that set the play in the context of post-war Communism and the rebuilding of his divided country.

Brecht is renowned for his distinctive dramatic philosophy, which challenged the traditional relationship between theatrical artifice and its audience. The Caucasian Chalk Circle comprises a play-within-a-play that is a timeless tale of romance and war, a moving story of maternal love, and a political allegory, complete with songs and comic turns. It is also a fable with a purpose, because its author’s intention is to prompt us to consider the moral, social and political points it makes in relation to our own time. To rationally apply learnings toward changing the world. Which is not to say that we will not be amused or emotionally engaged by the story and its performance.

As we record this episode, the play is enjoying its first major revival in London for twenty-five years at the Rose Theatre in Kingston, in a new adaptation by Steve Waters, directed by the Rose’s Artistic Director, Christopher Haydon. I’m delighted that Chris has taken time out to join me to talk about Brecht and this challenging, compelling, complicated, even crazy play.

The Rose Theatre production runs until 22nd October 2022. Click here for more information and to book.

Christopher Haydon

Christopher Haydon is Artistic Director of the Rose Theatre, Kingston. Prior to that, he was Artistic Director of the Gate Theatre from 2012-2017, and from 2008-2011, was associate director at the Bush Theatre. He was a 2017 fellow of the Clore Leadership Programme.

Directing credits at the Gate include The Convert, Grounded (also Traverse Theatre, Studio Theatre Washington DC, national and international tour, winner: Fringe First, Best Production – Off West End Awards), Diary of a Madman (Traverse Theatre), The Iphigenia Quartet, The Christians (also Traverse Theatre, winner: Fringe First), Image of An Unknown Young Woman (winner: Best Production – Off West End Awards).

Freelance directing credits include Macbeth (Manchester Royal Exchange), The Remains of the Day (Royal and Derngate, Northampton/Out of Joint), Trying It On (China Plate/RSC/Royal Court/Traverse Theatre), On The Exhale (China Plate/Traverse Theatre, released as an audiobook by Audible, winner: Fringe First), The Caretaker (Bristol Old Vic/Royal and Derngate, Northampton), Twelve Angry Men starring Martin Shaw and Robert Vaughn (Birmingham Rep/West End) and Pressure Drop starring Billy Bragg and his band (On Theatre/Wellcome Collection).

Recommended Play

Chris recommended two plays:
Black Watch by Gregory Burke, and
The Drowned World by Gary Owen.

Photo: Iona Firouzabadi

Photo © Marc Brenner
We have footnotes for this episode …

The Footnotes to our episode on The Caucasian Chalk Circle include notes on the origin of the chalk circle, the Soviet setting of the Prologue, Brecht’s views on the purpose of art, and the pleasures of the language in the play.

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