Caucasian Chalk Circle Review – Carrie Hope Fletcher Highlights Brecht’s Epic | Theater


Ffirst there is the prologue. Next, the game within a game. Finally, a second half with a knotted story all its own. And everything is crossed by songs. There are so many stories to tell in Brecht’s parable of motherhood and justice. Director Christopher Haydon has a great stab in this playful, music-soaked production, illuminated by Michael Henry’s dark, jagged score. But lasting nearly three hours, the show ultimately feels a bit bloated.

Adapter Steve Waters draws in context with quick, light strokes in a script woven with contemporary allusions. We are in a country in the throes of civil war. When the governor is beheaded in a coup (his decapitated head represented by a cut melon), his wife flees. She remembers her fancy clothes but forgets her son. Brecht’s unlikely heroine is the governor’s maid, Grusha, who must care for the baby and, on an increasingly perilous journey, tries to find refuge in a war-ravaged landscape.

Jonathan Slinger as Judge. Photography: Iona Firouzabadi

Grusha is played by Carrie Hope Fletcher, who has had such an impact as a musical singer on shows such as Les Miserables. She does light work on Henry’s striking folk-inspired score, which is always in motion, searching for harmonies and resolutions it never quite finds. Fletcher’s clear voice cuts through the clamor and commotion. Using sober yet moving melodies, she expresses how one could create hope out of despair, seize love out of nothing; build a family from the most fragile foundations.

The ensemble cast conjures up Brecht’s plethora of characters with childlike enthusiasm, aided by Oli Townsend’s expansive but nimble ensemble. The Zoe West singer is kind of a grungier version of the Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat narrator, as she leaps with her guitar and fills us in on Brecht’s ever-growing backstory. Jonathan Slinger, meanwhile, oozes presence as comedy judge Azdak, who suddenly appears in a second half that feels removed from the previous action. But with so much energy poured into the first half, it feels like the series is running out of storytelling breath – just when it’s needed most.

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