Skip to main content

The Caucasian Chalk Circle

Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh
Four stars

Before the opening of Mark Thomson's new production of Bertolt Brecht's late-period masterpiece, seen here in a new translation by Alistair Beaton, the large ensemble cast begin to mill about the auditorium. Dressed down in jeans and hoodies, they chat with the audience as they enter, or else warm up their accordion playing in the box seats above Karen Tennant's expansive set, left wide-open with pianos and a drum kit arranged around a gallows and some pillars.

As a plummy-voiced civil service type attempts to foster social engineering in a war-ravaged village, Sarah Swire's rock diva narrator breezes onstage, and the villagers become a multi-tasking musical theatre troupe, playing out the plight of servant girl Grusha, who flees an uprising with her Imelda Marcos-like mistress's forgotten child after pledging herself to soldier Simon. With Grusha's survival dependent on others, her story eventually gives way to that of Azdak, a village eccentric turned accidental judge, who must decide the fate of both Grusha and the child her blood mother wants returned.

With the business of bad governments at a global premium just now, there is no better time for a production of Brecht's epic, which Thomson invests with warmth and sensitivity rarely seen in Brecht. With much of the cast cross-dressing with Monty Python style glee, Christopher Fairbanks' court-room shenanigans borders on Carry On, while Amy Manson invests Grusha with a heady
vulnerability.

It is Claire McKenzie's live score, however, that powers the narrative, and Swire leads the cast with a mix of punk folk fury, Country laments and out and out swing in an all too necessary display of strength through joy.
 
The Herald, February 25th 2015

ends


Comments

Popular posts from this blog

The Honourable K.W. Harman: Ltd Ink Corporation

31 Bath Road, Leith Docks, March 17th-20th

In a monumental shipping container down by Leith Docks, a Sex Pistols tribute band is playing Anarchy in the U.K.. on a stage set up in the middle of the room. Either side, various constructions have been built in such a way so viewers can window shop as they promenade from one end of the room to the next, with the holy grail of a bar at either end.

Inbetween, there’s a confession booth and a mock-up of a private detective’s office with assorted documentation of real-life surveillance pinned to the walls. Two people seem to be having a conversation in public as if they're on a chat show. An assault course of smashed windows are perched on the floor like collateral damage of post-chucking out time target practice. A display of distinctively lettered signs originally created by a homeless man in search of a bed for the night are clumped together on placards that seem to be marking out territory or else finding comfort in being together. Opp…

The Maids

Dundee Rep

Two sisters sit in glass cases either side of the stage at the start of Eve Jamieson's production of Jean Genet's nasty little study of warped aspiration and abuse of power. Bathed in red light, the women look like artefacts in some cheap thrill waxworks horror-show, or else exhibits in a human zoo. Either way, they are both trapped, immortalised in a freak-show possibly of their own making.

Once the sisters come to life and drape themselves in the sumptuous bedroom of their absent mistress, they raid her bulging wardrobe to try on otherwise untouchable glad-rags and jewellery. As they do, the grotesque parody of the high-life they aspire to turns uglier by the second. When the Mistress returns, as played with daring abandon by Emily Winter as a glamour-chasing narcissist who gets her kicks from drooling over the criminal classes, you can't really blame the sisters for their fantasy of killing her.

Slabs of sound slice the air to punctuate each scene of Mart…

Scot:Lands 2017

Edinburgh's Hogmanay
Four stars

A sense of place is everything in Scot:Lands. Half the experience of Edinburgh's Hogmanay's now annual tour of the country's diverse array of cultures seen over nine bespoke stages in one global village is the physical journey itself. Scot:Lands too is about how that sense of place interacts with the people who are inspired inspired by that place.

So it was in Nether:Land, where you could see the day in at the Scottish Storytelling Centre with a mixed bag of traditional storytellers and contemporary performance poets such as Jenny Lindsay. The queues beside the Centre's cafe were further enlivened by the gentlest of ceilidhs was ushered in by Mairi Campbell and her band.

For Wig:Land, the grandiloquence of the little seen Signet Library in Parliament Square was transformed into a mini version of the Wigtown Book Festival. While upstairs provided a pop-up performance space where writers including Jessica Fox and Debi Gliori read eithe…