The Caucasian Chalk Circle Brecht's timeless, moral masterpiece

The Caucasian Chalk Circle

Tobacco Factory Theatres

Key Information
  • Dates Tue 25 Jun 2019 - Sat 29 Jun 2019
  • Location Tobacco Factory Theatres
  • Evenings

    Tue 25, Wed 26, Thu 27, Fri 28, Sat 29 June 7.30 PM

  • Matinees

    Thu 27 and Sat 29 2.30 PM

  • Ticket price

    £15 full | £10 concession

"The right to happiness is fundamental; men live so little time and die alone."

By Bertolt Brecht
Directed by Jesse Jones
Translated by Frank McGuinness

A city burns in the heat of civil war and Grusha, a young servant girl, must make a choice: save herself or sacrifice everything to rescue an abandoned child.

But when peace and order are finally restored, the Governor’s wife returns to claim her son. Echoing the Judgement of Solomon, the two women argue over possession of the child and it is left to Brecht’s great comic creation, the drunken judge Azdak, to determine who is the real mother of the forgotten child.

Calling upon the ancient tradition of the Chalk Circle, the unruly judge sets about resolving the dispute.

Brecht’s great moral masterpiece is one of his most popular plays, powerfully demonstrating his pioneering theatrical techniques.

This amateur production of The Caucasian Chalk Circle (tr. McGuinness) is presented by special arrangement with Samuel French Ltd.

Age Guidance: 14+
Contains sexual references and drug use.


Image Credit: Hide the Shark


Alice Birbara– Azdak /Soldier/ Fat Woman/ Man/ Ensemble

Avery Breyne- Cartwright– Cook/Aniko/Second Doctor/ Architect/ Older Lady/ Ludiovica/ Refugee/Ensemble

Léerin Campbell – Shauva, Mother-in-Law, Younger Lady, First Doctor, Architect, Nanny/ Ensemble

James Copplestone Farmer– Adjutant/Lavrenti/ First Man/ Nephew/ Second Lawyer/Ensemble

James Costello Ladanyi– Simon/ House Servant/ Stable Lad/ Ensemble

Jessie Fahay– Singer/Ensemble/ Farmer

Darby Hannon– Singer/Ensemble/ Farmer

Marine Laurencelle-Gaudreau– Grusha/ Ensemble

Rachel McVay– Fat Prince/Ensemble/ Merchant Woman/ Man/ Soldier/ The Bandit

Brian Pater– Governor/Monk/ Peasant/ First Soldier

Claire Shenstone-Harris– Singer/ Ensemble/ Farmer

Adam Troyer– Jessup/Corporal/ Ensemble/ Groom/ 2nd Soldier/ Rider

Sarah Young– Expert/ Ensemble/ Inn Keeper/ 1st Lawyer/ Old Man/ Second Man/Old Woman/ Landlord

Freja Zeuthen– Natella Abashvili/ Peasant Woman/ Ensemble

Creative Team

Director (visiting professional) Jesse Jones

Assistant Director Claire O’Reilly

Set Designer Roisin Martindale

Costume Designer Robin Davis

Lighting Designer (visiting professional) Chris Swain

Composer of Songs (visiting professional) Jack Drewry

Sound Designer Harriet Hollinshead-Lee

Movement Director TBC

Fight Director TBC

Voice and Dialect Coach Carol Fairlamb

Production Manager Jon Sherwood

Production Supervisor Ruth Sidery

Stage Manager Tasha Outen

Deputy Stage Manager Antonia Howlett

Assistant Stage Managers Atlanta Russell and Charlotte Woolley

Production Electrician/AV Daniel Harvey

Projection Mapping Joe Stathers

Lighting Operator Kirk Clifford

Sound Operator Kaija Brunyate

Technical Team Mary Bennett, Kirk Bishop, Chantel Blackwood, Kaija Brunyate, Caitlin Ravenscroft, Fred Spring

Construction Manager TBC

Construction Assistants Alastair Barrows, Tom Codd, Maddie Coward, Myer Daniels, Frankie Dowers, Leila Glen, Ella Lovelady, Kizzie Tims

Supervising Scenic Artist Radhika Parekh

Scenic Artists Julie O’Conner and Emma Inge

Assistant Scenic Artists Lily Baron and Emily Poole

Props Assistants Chloe Chancheong, Elkie McCrimmon, Dominic Parker, Eliza Podesta, Holly Stevens

Costume Supervisor Tamara Pearce Higgins

Costume Maker Lotte Marsh

Costume Assistants Amber Bowerman, Madeleine Barnicoat, Isabel Cope, Rebekah Davies, Rhianne Good, Katie Ireland

Close up of hands holding small paintbrush and minature chair

Set Design

Roisin Martindale is a graduating MA Theatre Design student. Before starting at BOVTS, she graduated from Goldsmiths College, London, in Fine Art and has since continued to develop in visual arts working across cinema marketing, event design, festivals and fringe theatre.

Where did you start with the set design for The Caucasian Chalk Circle?

The set design process started with lots of talking with director Jesse Jones about the play itself. We were interested in finding a fresh take on Brecht and his style of theatre-making and politics, and tried to discover the most interesting questions and ideas the piece might pose for a modern Bristol audience.

What have been the most challenging aspects of the design process?

The most challenging aspect (but also the most fun!) has been creating an environment full of life and play, where the performers could have creative freedom during the rehearsals to really experiment and make new discoveries. It’s also been an amazing process to design projection alongside and in response to this production.

What’s it like designing for the Tobacco Factory space?

The Tobacco Factory has been a fantastic challenge to design for – especially in its lesser-seen seating arrangement. The natural architecture of the space can sometimes be tricky, but also brings its own unique character to the show! We drew lots of inspiration from the industrial and cultural history of Tobacco Factory itself- see if you can spot any…

What can the audience expect from your design?

The audience can expect to be welcomed into a chaotic, colourful and raucous world, where we will ask questions, make theatre, and have some fun!

Costume Design

Robin Davis is a graduating MA Theatre Design student. Before starting at BOVTS, nRobin worked as an architect for a number of years, working in a variety of sectors including retail, student accommodation, and most
recently, education. In addition, he  worked as an illustrator and multidisciplinary maker, working on props, costumes, and set pieces for events and performance pieces.

Where did you start with the costume design for The Caucasian Chalk Circle?

The process started with a lot of conversations about the text, what it meant to us, and how we were going to interpret it for the modern age. Once we settled on a context for the story, I was able to go and research all of the alternative communities and cultural tribes that existed at the time and pull my inspiration from them.

What have been the most challenging aspects of the design process?

There are a lot of characters in the play but a fairly small company, meaning everyone is playing multiple characters, with some actors playing several characters in the same scene. As such, the costumes need to have flexibility designed into them so they can be quickly adapted, added to, and changed to suit each role in the story.

What’s it like designing for the Tobacco Factory space?

I’ve lived in Bristol for many years, and have a great fondness for the Tobacco Factory as a venue. The setting of this play fits perfectly with the architecture and history of the building, and I like to think that the characters I’ve designed could have once lived in it.

What can the audience expect from your design?

Something wildly creative and free, full of bright colours and boundless energy. This production seeks to take a classic story and give it a new look and feel, suitable for a modern Bristol audience.

Cast Interviews

Adam Troyer

Where are you from and how did you get into acting?  

I’m from New Orleans, Louisiana in the USA. I got into acting in high school and found myself loving the process of putting on a show and the collaboration between tech and performers that really come together to create something impactful which is exactly what we are trying to execute in The Caucasian Chalk Circle.

Tell us about your characters

I play a variety of characters – the first one I’m seen as is the Corporal. I have been playing with accent and body language to create the world that is pre-set by the Fat Prince having an Italian-New York sound. My other role, Jessup, has been a world away as he is placed in a rural setting. Creating the difference between the two has been a blast. Jessup is rougher round the edges and a much darker human.

What’s your favourite thing about training at BOVTS?

Training at BOVTS has been a world class experience. It has provided me with the tools to become an actor that I have always imagined being and beyond. Creating The Caucasian Chalk Circle with our team has been my favourite experience – I’m very grateful to have had an opportunity to learn what it means to build a world for a play to live and grow in.

Rachel McVay

Tell us about your characters.

Well, I don’t want to give too much away, but I play one of the villains, the Fat Prince. He’s sadistic, arrogant, entitled, grotesque, very Donald Trump-meets-some-weightier-dictators. I also play Irakli, the Bandit, who loves spending time with cows, and wears a tutu with Converse sneakers and a viking helmet.

How did you prepare for the role?

It’s been a mixture of character analysis as well as physical exploration. I started from an analytical perspective, to ensure I was telling the story Brecht intended, then I turned to various physical and psychological methods: Chekhov, Laban, Viewpoints, Animeaux, Rasaboxes. I’ve also spent quite a bit of time exploring the accents and vocal choices I could make in playing various characters, which has been fun. Yes, it’s Brecht, and yes, it’s absurd/satirical, but I still always seek to find truth in characters I inhabit.

What’s your favourite things about training at the BOVTS?

The training in the MA course is superb. What’s not to love about stage combat, voice, movement, dance, accents, Chekhov, Alexander, On-Camera? And those are just my favourites! The depth with which we explore paired with unyielding curiosity that is met with the most knowledgeable, passionate, expert tutors is what makes BOVTS one of the finest MA programmes around. I feel honoured to call BOVTS my grad school.

James Costello Ladanyi

Where are you from and how did you get into acting?

I’m from Wellington, New Zealand. I have had a serious interest in acting since secondary school. My love of theatre grew and I then did a BA in Theatre (and History) at university, with the goal of coming over to the UK for a conservatoire training programme.

Tell us about your character.

My main character in the show is Simon – the love interest of the story’s lead, Grusha. Figuring out Simon’s role within the crazy world of the play has been a real challenge! Like many of the characters in the story, he weaves in and out of the narrative, so there is a lot of subtext to unpack. Getting a strong personal understanding of Simon’s journey has probably been the most important preparation for the role.

What’s your favourite thing about training at BOVTS?

My favourite thing about BOVTS is the true sense of family that comes with the training. We are a small school so it really does feel like everyone knows everyone. Walking in the front door every morning is like stepping into a home away from home!

How do you feel about performing at the Tobacco Factory Theatres?

We are so lucky to be putting our play on at the Tobacco Factory Theatres’ main stage. It’s a brilliant, uniquely shaped theatre space that facilitates some really dynamic staging.

Brian Pater

Where are you from and how did you get into acting?  

I’m from Portland Oregon originally (USA), but also grew up for part of my life on Kauai, Hawaii.

I always loved acting from a very early age. My parents would always sign me up for our local community theatre productions, I was probably 6 or 7 years old during most of these (my best work to date)! Acting became a huge and full-time part of my life as I began university. My first year was rough, but acting helped me through it, and showed me healthy, fun ways to process emotions and feelings!

Tell us about your characters

First, I play The Governor, or Georgi Abashvili, who is quite taken with himself, obsessed with his status, and relishes his ability to affect other people’s lives as he sees fit…he also isn’t the brightest!

Second, I play the seemingly cranky Old Peasant,who really only wants to finish his daily soup, lead a quiet life, take care of his farm, and perhaps get a divorce from his considerably more caring wife.

Third, I play The Monkan unsavory character (understandably from Grushas’ perspective) who very much likes his bible, downing several (or twelve) drinks at the pub, and being involved in a good ol’ fashion wedding celebration.

Last, I play The Soldieror, as I’ve fondly named him; Demetrius. The Soldier is a complicated man who’s seen perhaps seen too much of battle, has been wronged by society more than once, and may have a twisted sense of humour, though he’s kept an overall hopeful outlook on life mostly intact. He and Azdak become fast friends after the Soldier witnesses Azdak’s wild and novel view of what justice should be. Though; things go a little bit sideways, some illegal substances may or may not have been taken, and The Soldier soon finds himself in a situation he had never imagined himself he’d be in.

 How did you prepare for the role?

I think I’m still preparing! Our director, Jesse, has been brilliant in more ways than I can write, but especially by inspiring and motivating us to play with different character choices and voicing ideas on the story at every step of the rehearsal process. It’s made preparation much simpler, because I rarely felt that there was ever a wrong answer or an incorrect way of approaching a scene. If anything, it would become a different version that we could choose to take from or leave behind.  Besides that, I’ve prepared by continuously going back to the text many times, and analysing how best I can tell Brecht’s story with the parts in the show that I have.

What’s your favourite thing about training at BOVTS?

There would be too much to cover here if I were to be in depth, but I have to say the variation on classes and topics covered, the freedom with choosing the way you want to approach the work that you do, and the fact that such everyday theatre school madness and mayhem is not only accepted but encouraged and fostered by some of the most wonderfully hardworking, amazing and supportive tutors I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing.

 Are you excited to be performing at the Tobacco Factory Theatres?

As us Americans would say, “Oh, heck yeah!” The Tobacco Factory is an incredible space, and I’m honoured to be acting with my fellow BOVTS MA peers, the brilliant and hardworking crew members, and under Jesse Jones’ direction. This is an insane show, but there’s so much love in it, and I’m excited for people to come see it.

Rehearsal Photography by Kate Rogers

The culture at BOVTS is encouraging, respectful, welcoming and empowering; the environment and buildings are beautiful and I found Bristol to be one of the most wonderful cities in which to spend summer! Lindy Yeates, Foundation Course Student