6th – 30th August (not 17th) @ Zoo
This adaption of the Caucasian Chalk Circle was impressively well acted by the Birmingham University theatre group 3BUGS. In fact this young company have, almost across the board, all the skills of language, character creation and tension building to have told this story without a production design which brought no apparent meaning or mood to the adaptation.
The weakest element is the handling of the often problematic musical aspect of the Brechtian play; neither playing it to the extreme nor taking the decision to drop it altogether in favour of a different form of narration. The musical elements which are retained are weak, perhaps because of the lack of a distinct setting or rejection of the traditional one, and distract from what is a piece of vibrant theatre by actors talented enough and certainly confident enough to engage the audience in a fresher retelling of the German classic.
There are a little too many hunched ‘old person’ hobbles, regional accents and other stereotypes used. But with the potential the company shows they will soon be able to leave behind these traditional crutches of character creation in favour of the more subtle yet expressive characterisation of which there were a few examples.
The most effective ideas were the physical recreations of setting and atmosphere – such as the crowded train and the puppetry of the toddler Micheal Abashvili which was skilfully rendered.
The show is long and could have stood some stricter editing to get it down to Fringe-comfortable duration, perhaps by dropping the prologue. But you do not waste your time with this production, for if one looks beyond the silly make-up these kids really can make you care who comes out of the Caucasian Chalk Circle triumphant.