Girls Blazer Badge Boys Blazer Badge

The School Play 1965

Caucasian Chalk Circle

A Play by Bertolt Brecht

From Simon Pettitt

IN March 1965 the school staged The Causcasian Chalk Circle by Bertolt Brecht in conjunction with senior girls from Southover Manor School. This very modern play from a such a controversial dramatist was probably asking rather a lot from such a young cast, but, in the nineteen sixties there seemed no limit to the aspirations of the younger generation. One could not imagine it ever being put on in the Bradshaw era!

Report in Sussex Express and County Herald

Schools combine to give courageous production of a controversial play

THE opening performance of a slightly abridged version of that much discussed play 'The Caucasian Chalk Circle,' by Bertolt Brecht, was given on Wednesday by Lewes County Grammar School boys in association with girls of Southover Manor School, Lewes.

This long, complex and rather difficult play is no mean under-taking for youthful amateurs. Nevertheless it was attacked courageously with impressive results.

The cast numbered over 30, and many of them took two or even three parts. Nine parts were taken by girls of Southover Manor School and one, a leading part, was ably taken by Bridget Phillips, who was until recently a sixth- former at Lewes County Grammar School for Girls.

Considerable integration on the production side was effected through one designer, Mr. Peter Toy, being responsible for both the set and the costumes. The result of this was a notable contribution to the effectiveness of the play.

Bold Cut

A bold cut was made by the deletion of the whole of the first introductory scene of Brecht's version, which serves only to give the effect of a play within a play. Only the 'inner play' was presented. This was undoubtedly a sound move.

Other cuts were made where, as explained in the programme, 'foul language, more offensive in English translation than in the original, contributes neither to the action nor to characterisation.'

Despite these cuts, the players were hard pressed for time in a two and a half hour performance. The acoustics of the hall are not of the best. Further judicious cuts would have done no harm to the play and would have helped the players and the audience as well.

The play is based on two stories, through which runs a, thread of revolution, flight and sudden transformations in a near Oriental atmosphere.

The Climax

Astonishing situations develop after the dramatic beheading of a city governor in the opening scene. The climax arrives when Grusha (Bridget Phillips), fleeing with the late governor's baby son, Michael, is obliged to avoid the voice of scandal, to seek a marriage of convenience.

In a remarkable scene she is married to a 'dying' man, who turns out to be very much alive. The climax to her confusion is reached when her bethrothed (sic) (Martin Ternouth as Simon Cha-chava) arrives in time to witness her betrayal of their troth.

Her sacrifice of love and liberty and the hardships she has endured are all in vain, for the young princeling is identified after all, and Grusha is dragged away for trial.

The trial forms the more important part of Act II. There is a spirited scene between Grusha and the judge Azdak (Peter Waight), a worthless character who has gained favour with the mob by fining the rich to help the poor.


His interpretation of justice is amusingly paradoxical. When he is busy he tries two cases at once. The verdicts, of course, get crossed and all works out for the best.

When he is called upon to decide whether Grusha or the late Governor's widow (Sally Kay Shuttleworth) is the mother of Michael, he resorts to the traditional test of the chalk circle - a variant of Solomon's method of judgment.

The judge has, of course, another case in hand at the same time, a divorce suit. The chalk circle proves that the widow is the mother of the child, so the muddled judge gives the custody to Grusha and divorces her from her husband - to the satisfaction of Simon, her soldier lover, who is still waiting.

So all ends well in a world which, at least is no madder than the world outside the theatre.


The production abounded with colourful scenes of pageantry, largely due to the costumes - made by a working party of staff wives and friends of the school.

The set was admirable, and did much to compensate for the difficulties with levels usually experienced in school halls. The lighting was admirable and the visual effects remarkable.

At appropriate moments, songs, by Grusha, and a background of music composed for the occasion by Richard Hames, an ex-Grammar School boy, and conducted by him, helped the production. The musicians were John Gorrett (violin), John Stevenson (clarinet), Richard Ware ('cello) and Keith Archer (trumpet).

Responsible, as producer, for it all, was Mr. Peter Taylor. The final presentation was obviously the product of many months of preparation and team work with the gratifying result that the first night went off without a noticeable hitch of any kind.

The audience gave a great ovation at the final curtain.
J. M.

Page 1

Page 2

Page 3

Page 1