Brecht not for Beginners!

“Don’t expect the theatre to satisfy the habits of its audience, but to change them. “

Bertholt Brecht

Ensemble (Photo: Iona Firouzabadi)

This is not the production to take a young Carrie Hope Fletcher fan to.  No matter how much they plead with you to see her in this new play, they will find this Brechtian epic play at three hours ten minutes gruelling.  Bertholt Brecht is very much admired as a left wing playwright who stood up to the Nazis but I think he may not be appreciated by the under 16s and this over 16 reviewer can’t face another Mother Courage continually dragging her cart across countries onstage. 

The Caucasian Chalk Circle has as its source the judgment of Solomon where a wise decision was made and, in the second act, Jonathan Slinger gives great comic value as the corrupt justice Azdak.  If it were possible I would suggest you enter this production at the interval so you do not have to endure the 100 minute first act.  Of course, what some people may do is to leave in the interval, which I saw a few people do at Good, previewing at the Harold Pinter this week.  In my opinion, they need their heads examining! 

Carrie Hope Fletcher as Grusha (Photo: Iona Firouzabadi)

Steve Waters has adapted Brecht’s play for this production and it is a brave choice for the Rose under director Christopher Haydon, whose usual repertoire tends to be more middle of the road and less edgy.

The introductory scene is set in a facility for asylum seekers where three people argue about the farm land they once occupied.  Two people are dairy farmers and offer their cheese to their fellow inmates.  The other, in the original, was a wine maker but this appeared left out or I and my companion missed it.  Come to think about it few areas would be suited to the vineyards needing hot sun and the lush, wet grasslands required for dairy cattle. 

The device is a play within a play (yawn) where the asylum seekers are invited to act some of the parts suggested by visiting dramatist and musician Zoe West with guitar.  To make this allegory of war, separation and displacement more accessible a severe editing would have helped and you could usually lose the opening framing scene. 

Jonathan Slinger as Judge Azdak (Photo: Iona Firouzabadi)

The first act of this epic is taken up with a maidservant Grusha (Carrie Hope Fletcher) caring for the cast off baby (represented by a well loved teddy bear, which gets larger over time) of the deposed Governor and his wife (Joanna Kirkland). Grusha has far more tenderness than the child’s birth mother who is arrogant, selfish and pantomime style contemptible. 

We follow Grusha’s travel on foot across the mountains and a glacier pursued by soldiers looking for the baby aristocratic heir.  There are moments when the stage seems too large for this kind of storytelling. The costume choices for the pursuers are so similar to everyone else’s, it is hard to tell who is who.

This tale was originally written with folk music but here composer Michael Henry’s original music is unmelodic and rather discordant.  In support is a lone guitar rather than any kind of band.  The resulting singing is almost plainsong and not very easy to listen to despite Carrie Hope Fletcher’s superlative singing voice which stands out.  She endearingly sings to the child.

For all his eccentricity Judge Azdak his decision, “And in this manner the Court has established the true mother” is one we can all endorse.

Nickcolia King N'da as Simon (Photo: Iona Firouzabadi)

Production Notes

The Caucasian Chalk Circle

Adapted by Steve Waters

from the play by Bertholt Brecht

Directed by Christopher Haydon

Ensemble (Photo: Iona Firouzabadi)



Carrie Hope Fletcher

Jonathan Slinger

Bridgitta Roy

Joanna Kirkland

Nickcolia King-N’Da

Ronny Jhutti

Shiv Rabheru

Zoe West

Adeola Yemitan


Director: Christopher Haydon

Designer: Oli Townsend

Composer and Musical Director: Michael Henry

Lighting Designer: Mark Jonathan

Sound Designer: Gareth Fry

Movement: Lucy Cullingford

Fight Director: Claire Llewellyn


Running Time: Three hours 10 minutes with an interval

Booking to 22nd October 2022


The Rose

24-26 High St

Kingston upon Thames



Rail: Kingston

Reviewed by Lizzie Loveridge at the

Rose Theatre, KIngston

on 6th October 2022