“Theatre makes us think about power and the way our society works and it does this with a clear purpose, to make a change.”
The ideas of Bertolt Brecht (1898-1965) changed the theatre in many ways. Brecht along with Erwin Piscator developed the style of Epic theatre style contrasting to previous accepted styles. Presentational in form, Epic theatre is a vehicle for social comment through techniques such as: alienation, historification, eclectic influences (highly Asian), constructivism in scenery, disjointed and illogical scene placement, ordinary clothing and lighting, the use of music to detach the audience from emotion, placards and signs and projected images. Didactic in nature Brecht’s works aim to challenge the audience to assess socially accepted norms and educate them to injustices often overlooked by the public. The Caucasian Chalk Circle (Brecht, 1944) written during the time of Nazi Germany occupation has a clearly political and social focus.
The Caucasian Chalk Circle (CCC) is a play of two stories which eventually are interweaved. Scene 1 is a prologue to the action of the play that serves as a metaphor for the entire play “struggle between what is right legally and what right socially”. The protagonist from the first story is Grusha, a simple maid who sacrifices her safety and youth to protect Governor’s child. Scenes 2-4 focus exclusively on Grusha’s story. Scene 5 introduces the protagonist for the second story, the drunk judge Adzak. Scene 6 brings the two protagonists together and is the climatic action of the play. Scenes 5 and 6 focus more on social problems being that the base of society- the justice system. The audience experiences the drunken judge take bribes and rule in favour of those who are often in the wrong, yet he feels by way of circumstance are not guilty. The case of the old woman and the farmers illuminates that being poor is an injustice in itself. “Who weeps when she is given a cow and is surprised when she is not beaten.” This quote shows that the old woman was in possession of a stolen cow, Adzak shows compassion to the poor woman as by result of circumstance believes it a miracle to be fed. The Caucasian Chalk Circle is a play that highlights to its audience the injustices of society and aims to instruct change after viewing.
The Caucasian Chalk Circle was written during the time of Nazi Germany, The Second World War and the age of communism in eastern bloc countries. Brecht was a firm advocate for Marxism, which is often present in his tone. CCC is set after World War Town in a rural area; the first scene discusses what will happen to the lands now that the war is finished. This can clearly be linked to comment on the Soviet Union after WW2 and the effect the German’s had had on Soviet progress. Brecht uses the singer to demonstrate and narrate the comment on play happenings, as what can be seen to be a parallel to Brecht commenting on his own context. Brecht’s political views and...