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The Caucasian Chalk Circle at State Theatre Centre of WA - Review

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by Chantelle Pitt (subscribe)
University Student. Freelance Writer. Frequent Netflix Watcher. All-Around Arts Enthusiast.
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A classic piece of epic theatre by German playwright, Bertolt Brecht, this piece of theatre tells the tale of Grusha, a young servant girl who takes in the infant son of her wealthy employers and raises him as her own, all while a war rages around her and people hunt for the child she cares for.

Heath Ledger Theatre, Black Swan, Brecht
Black Swan's Promotional Poster

As someone who studied The Caucasian Chalk Circle during high school drama, I know the play well and consider it one of my favourite works, which is why it may be hard for me to be unbiased in this instance. When you love a story, you always expect it to be everything you envisioned and more when it is brought to life in front of you. In some instances, you can't always get what you wish for and even though the production by Black Swan State Theatre Company was amazing to say the least, it wasn't my version of The Caucasian Chalk Circle.

I applaud Black Swan for their collaboration with The National Theatre of China to bring to life this piece of theatre and definitely see the collaboration as a positive choice for all parties involved. In saying that, I had a few issues with the production in general. I do believe that all current patrons as well as all future patrons deserve to know that this is not a true retelling of Bertolt Brecht's The Caucasian Chalk Circle, but it is in fact an adaptation which is widely influenced by the original Chinese story The Circle of Chalk which is the original inspiration for Brecht's well-known script.

The adaptation was very well done, with large influence from the Beijing Opera (masks, dances and music) as well as epic theatre (which means minimal costumes, multiple actors playing multiple roles and the 'play within a play' mentality where the audience is aware they are watching a show). The set was wonderfully minimalistic as would be expected from a play such as this and cast and crew made use of the minimal set by making all the components moveable and interchangeable. Another thing that makes this production so different yet so intriguing is the use of songs to describe thoughts, motions and feelings.

Congratulations to Alex Malone as Grusha, who makes her debut with Black Swan and did fantastically at such a demanding role. My stand out pick would have to be Adam Booth in the role of Ironshirt #1 who made me so uncomfortable when making sexual innuendos towards Grusha. His performance was beautifully thought out and equally uncomfortable and humorous that it made my favourite pick for the night.

Playing at The Heath Ledger Theatre from the 30th of July until the 14th of August, information regarding bookings or future productions can be found at or by visiting the box office located at The State Theatre Centre of Western Australia.

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Why? Black Swan's international collaboration with The National Theatre of China.
When: 30/07/16 - 14/08/16
Where: State Theatre Centre of WA, Level 1, 182 William Street, Perth WA 6000
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