The Caucasian Chalk Circle, 3BUGS Fringe Theatre – The Zoo
**** (4 stars)
When performing epic theatre, it must be just that, epic, and 3BUGS Fringe Theatre’s The Caucasian Chalk Circle most certainly was. This fantastic eleven-strong ensemble managed to keep faithfully to Brechtian techniques, whilst appearing fresh and innovative in their interpretation of the text.
This classic tells the tale of a young woman, Grusha, who saves Michael, the child of an aristocratic family, in the midst of a civil war, and is then pursued by soldiers and the child’s family for her heroics. However, she grows so attached to the child that she challenges his maternity, leading to the age-old test of the chalk circle to find out who the ‘real’ mother of the Michael is.
Upon entering the small theatre space one was immediately greeted by a huge array of action onstage as the whole cast moved and interacted with each other and the audience. This busy, excited stage created a carnival-like atmosphere, which was made all the more compelling to watch by their very Brechtian costumes; a red, black, and white/grey theme, with made-up white faces, black eyes and lips and a multitude of age lines.
As an ensemble they worked well together, with beautifully stylised movements matched with choral speaking and singing to convey the tale as a single unit. They were consistently innovative in their methods of conveying complicated events onstage with few or no props and minimal set; from the clicking of fingers to signal a gunshot, to the banging of plastic buckets to create a constant drum beat in the background. Their use of puppetry was particularly inventive, and their fantastic ability to create the illusion of a train onstage with just sound effects and facial expressions was a real highlight of the show. One of the few aspects of the production which seemed half-hearted was the inclusion of choral singing; the narrator sang throughout, which although it is keeping true to the original Brecht, would have fitted in better if there had been either more or less.
This was an extremely impressive rendition of a well-known play which allows a lot of room for innovation and clever theatrical techniques; this ensemble provided a clear, concise and beautifully executed performance of Brecht’s most popular tale, which made it accessible for both Brecht lovers and epic-theatre newcomers alike.
The Zoo, running until 30th August, 6.30pm. Full price £7.50 concession £6.50.