The Caucasian Chalk Circle at Rose Theatre

The Caucasian Chalk Circle showing at The Rose Theatre in Kingston is a whirlwind of excellence. The play starts with a prologue, it moves into the play within the play and then we are delivered a deeper backstory in Act II. One thing that is extremely clear with this production of the Brecht classic is that the storytelling from all cast members was sensational. It was dynamic, humorous and emotional.

Photos – Iona Firouzabadi

For those unfamiliar, the play is set in the midst of a bloody revolution and tells the story of a young woman, Gushra (played by Carrie Hope Fletcher) who risks everything to rescue the abandoned child of the Governor and his wife. Years later, when the Governor’s wife returns seeking her son, a raucous rogue judge turns justice on its head. Can the test of the chalk circle determine which of the two women is the boy’s real mother?

The direction by Christopher Hayden is snappy throughout, which is a positive as the show runs at nearly three hours and feels extremely long. The whole ensemble plays multiple characters and they switch seamlessly between them. Special mentions to Shiv Rabheru and Ronny Jhutti who bring so much style and confidence to all of their parts. The minimalist set is used in a multitude of ways and as a viewer you become so invested in the storytelling that you forget the table with the feast on is actually a bed used from the refuge shelter in the prologue; I believe this is down to a good collaboration between the director and his actors. While the show is delivered wonderfully, during the second half you become exhaustingly baffled by the need to know about the judges’ story. You become disconnected from the main part of the story which can be dissatisfying. Even though the second half adds a level of comedy, in my opinion it is not necessarily needed and could have cut down the show by at least forty minutes.

Carrie Hope Fletcher definitely has the opportunity to show her musical talents in this version, she sings beautifully and with such emotion which is not a surprise knowing her background. Zoe West ‘The Singer’, takes on the role of the narrator and it almost feels like a folk version of the narrator in Blood Brothers or Joseph which is thoroughly enjoyable and does help the audience keep up with the story. West has an excellent presence on stage and plays the guitar well as the sole musician on stage. The majority of the music is lovely but I do think that some of the lyrics and music do not match making it hard to hear what is happening within that moment of the play. Saying this, the ensemble shows impeccable acapella singing in unison which added an extra layer to this originally non-musical play.

The feisty production is performed to a high standard and I can definitely see the show doing well at The Rose Theatre with the cast involved. Regardless of the running time, I would still recommend this show as one to watch.      

Review by Laura Whittingham

The Caucasian Chalk Circle is on at Rose Theatre until 22nd October. You can find out more and book tickets on their website.

If you like this review you might also like my review of Cabaret, Frozen and Come From Away.

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