Review: The Caucasian Chalk Circle
A story about a mother’s love; a girl’s sacrifice and heartache, The Caucasian Chalk Circle written by German modernist playwright Bertolt Brecht, staged by Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts Diploma in Theatre (English Drama) Graduation Show, explores the ideologies of justice and love amidst chaos in a minimalistic epic play.
It started with a narrator telling a story to a group of peasants sitting in a chalk circle about how a child of noble birth was abandoned during war and adopted by a maid, Gursha, who treated him like her own. In order to protect the child, Gursha sacrificed herself and unwillingly married a man who lied about his state of health to avoid being drafted. The child’s birth mother, Natella, returned after the war to reclaim custody of the child, the only heir to a large fortune, and the struggle for justice between the two women began. The narrator’s story ended with the Judge, Azdak, granting custody to Gursha because of her love for the child and ‘accidentally’ authorising her divorce, allowing her to be with her lover, whom she was separated from during the war.
Azdak was a character of high importance in the play because of the symbolism behind his role as the judge and his use authority. One such example is the red cloak worn by him, a symbol of authority. He was handed the cloak together with the ‘Book of Law’ that bestowed upon him the authority as a judge. The cloak and the book not only symbolised the power of a judge, but was also used as subtle mocking at Man’s misguided respect for symbols. This is evident from his usage of the book, a symbol of intellect, justice and structure, as his stool instead of his guide to the law and the basis of his judgement.
The alternative use for the book and the red cloak against the homogenous white costumes were also significant in portraying the deconstruction of the meaning of true justice in the play. Justice, as viewed by society, seeks to find the truth...
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