The Caucasian Chalk Circle and Oh What A Lovely War

I am going to write about two plays in which I have studied and compared. ‘The Caucasian Chalk Circle’ is set in the time of war a long time ago although has no precise period. Bertolt Brecht wrote the play in 1944 while he was in exile. The other text I studied was ‘Oh What A Lovely War’ written by John Littlewood and set in 1914 – 1915 (during the period of World War One). It was influenced by Brecht’s ideas and thoughts on political theatre. As a consequence of these two plays being closely associated in themes and styles there are similarities but also differences.

They are both set in a time of war and deal with the less fortunate/lower class people. Both plays were also written during wars occurring in other countries. The authority figures that are seen in both of the plays are unpleasant and selfish towards people of a lower class or people who they are in control of. In ‘The Caucasian Chalk Circle’ the corporal can be seen as an example as an authority figure and how he treats his soldiers. In ‘Oh What A Lovely War’ the sergeant major is seen as an authority figure, and like the corporal, treats his recruits in a selfish and unpleasant manner.

Both of the plays have a social structure within the storyline. They also include both montage and songs throughout the performance with the actors playing ensemble parts. Both plays are set during a different period. ‘The Caucasian Chalk Circle’ is a fable whereas ‘Oh What A Lovely War’ is based on reality. ‘The Caucasian Chalk Circle’ focuses on civilians and also innocent females getting caught up in the war around them. ‘Oh What A Lovely War’ deals with the soldiers and how they survive through the war.

Both plays have different views of the soldiers. In the ‘The Caucasian Chalk Circle’ the soldiers (called Ironshirts) are seen as thick and violence seeking soldiers but ‘Oh What A Lovely War’ portrays the soldiers as the ones who are sacrificed and treated unfairly by their high ranks. They are seen to face discrimination and disregard The styles of the two plays differ too. In ‘The Caucasian Chalk Circle’ one or two of the characters at points in the scene performs songs.

Brecht would often use a happy song for a sad scene to prevent the audience becoming too attached to the particular character and to also continue comedy within the play. The songs performed would also be a part of the scene/section. ‘Oh What A Lovely War’ would have a happy song although in the background would have projected pictures of the war showing horrific and devastating scenes. The epic style of theatre used would use pictures to make a statement about the war and songs/tunes familiar to the audience. The songs performed wouldn’t be part of the scene but would be stood alone.

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