Brecht would have liked the way the Cameri Theater in Tel Aviv approached his ‘Caucasian Circle’, despite the fact that it departs in many moments from the text he has written. He was himself more interested by the political engagement and with the contemporary messages of his plays than by texts (or better said pretexts) that built the performances. As playwright and director he let to the actors a wide space of freedom in expression, and combined the stage movement with songs in a manner that never tired or fell into desuetude in the many decades since his plays were written.  The text of the ‘Circle’ draws its inspiration from two sources – a 14th century Chinese play by Li Xingdao and the Biblical story of Solomon’s trial.


Director Udi Ben Moshe’s adaptation in Tel Aviv changes the wrapper of the story. There is almost no mention of the post World War II kolhoze story created by Brecht. In Tel Aviv it is replaced naturally by the conflict between two people who claim the same piece of land as their own. The theater in which the theater performance is played is replaced by our own universe, despite the denials of the character and raisonneur judge Azdak (whose name has also Hebrew intonation as ZDK is the radical for the word justice). There is however more in the young director’s version that enhances his adherence to the free theater principles. Usually amateur versions of the well-known plays are being taken over in schools, here he takes on the stage of the (arguably) best theater in Israel a version he has put on stage a few years ago for a high school performance of the play. The usage of chalk on blackboard as set designs is simple and expressive and so well fits into the context and the name of the play that it seems like the most natural thing in the world (stage design – Frieda Klapholz-Avrahami).


The performance in Tel Aviv is over all catchy and entertaining, trying to keep an appearance of improvisation, with two parts that look quite different in style and content. While the first part sets the context and plays more on the situations and characters comedy, the second one includes most of the political messages and relies on a great extent upon the personality of Shlomo Bar-Aba, who dominates the scene in one of these great performances that are to be remembered over years. All the other actors belong to the young generation and some of their replicas are up to the maestro’s show of power. Neta Garti is energetic and emotional in Grusha (one of these powerful Brechtian women who save the Universe with their deeds), while Andrea Schwartz gets the maximum from the Governor’s widow role, mastering the negative part in the comical register while playing as a supporting team member in scenes that require supporting acting. Udi Rothschild is an ingenuous Simon, and also fills-in a number of supporting parts. As in many of the performances written by Brecht music plays an important role, and there is a wide choice of existing scores, as well as the option of creating a new one. The Tel Aviv theater went for an original version, with the music composed by Keren Peles, who became in the last few years the house composer of the Cameri, leaving her print on a number of performances to be remembered for the music (supplementary to other aspects) and the version of the ‘Circle’ can be added to the series.

(video source aftaabtheatre)

Unfortunately I could not find any sequence from the performance in Tel Aviv. What I did find was another very interesting filmed excerpts from a performance put on stage in Afghanistan. The Aftaab Theatre was founded by Ariane Mnouchkine of Theatre Du Soleil in July 2005. Among other the opening scene in the clip seems to use traditional Jewish music. It’s a symbol of the fact that true theater as any true art transcends borders, may they be geographical and spiritual borders, and that the text written by Brecht at the end of the biggest conflict in history is so fit for other conflicts that still divide people world-wide. I am just left wondering what was the story that envelops the story that was presented to the Afghan audiences.