There is something extraordinary about how a production takes shape. Dependent on material, personnel, their skills and level, the venue and resources available, all feed in to how the show evolves. I can never understand how directors begin with so much set firmly . Peter Brook’s ‘hunch’ always seems to me the best you can do at the start.
rehearsal shot of the Caucasian Chalk Circle: drama students at NUI Galway: Laura Keown,Niamh Ryan,Damian Duddy,Cillian Browne, Aoife Corry,Niall Carmody,Paige Louter.
I have directed the Caucasian Chalk Circle by Brecht once before and appeared in it once. This time I am directing the students of The Centre for Drama, Theatre and Performance NUI Galway in the famous Mick Lally Theatre , home of Druid Theatre Company, and the venue itself creates interesting challenges for a large cast. I actually did not agree to doing that play there until I had checked out the new seating block which allows now for five different exit points. Caucasian Chalk Circle is very much concerned with escape, and journies, so although there are many theatrical ways one can pretend to leave and return there is, in an actual entrance, an extraordinary element of surprise. We have only to consider this in real life, how the entrance of a person into the space changes the feel or atmosphere of a room and how it changes when they leave it. I have always been over sensitive to this change of dynamic and nowhere is it more obvious than in a play.
The first prevalent atmospheres/qualities in Chalk Circle are obvious; one is that of oppression and power as we are taken to a place where torture and abuse is acceptable all in the name of serving the nobility. The second section has an atmosphere/quality which we might describe as The Hunt, as Grusha goes on the run with the Royal baby. The third section, as Grusha sacrifices almost everything for the child she now loves, is a trickier proposition. For Grusha the third act is a grinding tragedy as she sacrifices her very personality and ego for the child, though her life is not at risk It is told however for the most part as a hilarious folk tale in which Grusha takes an apparently dying husband . If you go too much with Grusha’s sense of sacrifice then we lose out on the humour. If we play the section with a totally frivolous air then her emotional journey is lost. But one of the amazing things about Brecht is the way he exploits polarities and paradoxes. And it is this very grating of the tragedy and comedy, which give the act it’s flavour. it is something the Jacobean playwrights knew well. The fourth act, the story of Azdak, is almost an interlude . It definitely has a different flavour, a flavour of political cabaret. The fifth act brings about the resolution of the tale and has the atmosphere of justice and the scales…. We are asked to weigh the judgement.
The whole play is narrated by a singer. Each Act has a different singer. Our singers tell the story as if they are leading or imbuing the atmosphere of the act they narrate.
Another aspect that is influencing this production is the atmosphere of the Mick Lally Theatre itself. As the home of the world famous Druid Theatre Company it has its own recent history, but when you look at its cave-like interior you feel as if you are trapped within the tectonic plates of time. The high walls are centuries old and as you absorb this atmosphere you can hear the world of modern Galway going on outside. This play about a slither of time that was ‘almost just’ has a strong poetic resonance with that . Here we are trying to present a play in what feels like a secret space. You feel as if you you are in a mine. You feel like an outsider and play focuses a lot on the system of oppression..
The show plays from the 17th – 20th February. At the Mick Lally Theatre Druid Lane Galway Ireland . tickets available from firstname.lastname@example.org or sox box 091 492852
Yes you make me feel the time that wasn’t just, that Galway lived through; and the time now that isn’t perhaps even almost just but is much better; and also the oppression inside of the “theatre act” itself that plays the tyrant to true creative expression and relationship with an audience and an actor or writer; and still all of that it seems sadly can be applauded. Makes you realise Peter that no space is absolutely empty!!