CommunityDramaNorth East & YorkshireReview

Doncastarian Chalk Circle  – Cast, Doncaster

Reviewer: Christopher Holmes

Adaptor: Chris Bush

Director: James Blakey

Loosely based on Caucasian Chalk Circle by Bertolt Brecht this community piece presented by The Cast Theatre Doncaster in collaboration with The National Theatre,  has, above all else, a really big heart. Representing the many different cultures within the town this diverse and culturally vibrant offering quite literally ticks every box. It aims to make theatre accessible and encourages its patrons to be open, generous and brave.

Adapted by the brilliant Chris Bush and directed by the National Theatre’s own James Blakey Doncastrian Chalk circle (running at 1 hour 30 minutes) invites us to be part of something bigger.

It has been four years in the making and, from reading the program notes, it seems that this collaboration has been a successful journey.  Fusing music, movement and drama, with themes often difficult to digest, this ambitious yet highly spirited tale of hope and exploration is a fitting tribute to Cast and the community it serves.

Despite the technical and sound issues tonight there are some interesting moments of staging but unfortunately memory lapses and pacing issues mean the piece quite often drags.

Organising a theatrical event of this scale (the performers are plentiful and too many to count) is no mean feat. As an advocate for inclusive theatre it would be remiss of this critic not to highlight the importance and affects of such a project. It certainly plays it’s part in making bold and accessible theatre with each player relishing the opportunity to tread the boards – one just wonders if it is a story worth telling.

The stage is filled with amateur performers from the locality of every race, colour, creed, age, gender and sexual orientation. You cannot help but root for each performer as the story unfolds, paving the way for a more inclusive theatrical experience.  Breaking down barriers of prejudice they use disabled actors who tear up the theatrical rule book and, given the response of an audience of friends and family this evening, Cast has proven to be a beacon of experimental theatre with Doncaster at its heart.

This idea is definitely worth revisiting as it does show promise and, as each scene becomes more and more zany, obscure and brilliantly bonkers as the show plays out, one couldn’t help but think – ‘whatever next?’…  The play also randomly features musical theatre and Eastenders legend, John Partridge and, though perhaps not a career highlight for him, he does bring a little light relief.

The Cast Theatre Doncaster is a beautifully designed venue full of vibrant textures and colour. A real hidden gem that deserves every success. One just wonders if this particular piece has really hit the mark it originally intended.

Runs until 29 August 2022

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One Comment

  1. Having just got home from watching the final performance (and having many years experience as a performer and appreciator of quality musical theatre), I cannot praise this production highly enough. An absolute rollercoaster of emotions, superbly performed by a highly enthusiastic and committed cast and a show which, through a wonderful balance of tears and laughter, proved to be the best bit of theatre I have seen in a good while. Inspirational, uplifting and a truly joyous experience. This was an utter triumph and I congratulate all involved!

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