Sunday, 16 November 2014

Review of "The Caucasian Chalk Circle"

First thing first, I'm aware that the picture of this book is of startlingly appalling quality. However, as England has become a seat of darkness already this Winter, there's only a very small time period in which decent photos can be taken. As I'm really conscious at the moment of how long it's been since I've written something (over a week, whoops) I really wanted to get this out today, so we'll have to deal with the poor quality picture. Hey, at least it matches the battered copy my student loans graced me with right? 

Anyway, let's talk about the play. Although I should have already read some Brecht, my general lack of motivation (aka laziness) as a first-year student meant that I *cough* overlooked reading Mother Courage and Her Children. So, The Caucasian Chalk Circle is really my first experience of reading Brecht. I have to say, I massively enjoyed it. If you haven't read any, or really feel like reading something that will make you ask questions about modern life this play is brilliant.The quotation above is just a small sample of thought-provoking and often terrifyingly accurate analyses of modern life that the play contains.

The play itself tells you what's going to happen within the prologue, so I can't really spoiler anything, The Caucasian chalk circle, as narrated by Brecht, is a circle which is drawn around an infant when there is a dispute over who the mother is. The two women in question are asked to tug on the infant - whoever pulls him out of the circle hardest and fastest is the legitimate mother. However, there is a twist. Although the judge of the action states these rules, the real mother is in fact the one who lets go - she cares about the child enough to choose his safety over her emotional attachment to him.

The plot follows the story of Grusha, a servant girl working for a governor and his wife. There is a revolt in the city they live in. The governor is killed and the wife, in her haste to save her dresses, runs away and forgets their infant son, Michael. Grusha runs away with the baby, pursued by soldiers who want to kill him. She eventually reaches her brother's house, but her safety is not secured there....

The second half of the plot sees Azdak, a simple man, become a judge during a revolution. Almost like a Robin Hood-esque character, he has a distorted sense of justice, which for once doesn't help the rich and powerful!

There's so many things that could be said about this play that I'll just never be able to articulate. So, I'll just give a brief account on my thoughts, There is a really interesting interplay between the role of women in capitalist society and commodities. Grusha herself is set up to be a commodity from the start: she is a servant, whose sole worth in the mind of her employer is her ability to follow instructions and perform certain tasks with accuracy. She is then further commodified in her ability (or lack thereof) to produce milk for the infant. She views her breast as something that exists to produce milk, but it sadly serves as a reminder to the reader that she is unable to mother the baby on a physical as well as an emotional level. 

There are many provocative moments in the play. I'm not going to bore you, but some of the most potent aspects I found were the connection between the exchange of money and sexual acts/sexual presence, and the idealist understanding of socialist principles. 

What did you guys think? Have you read it?

Love and Light

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