Caitlin Beresford-Ord talks The Caucasian Chalk Circle


Caitlin Beresford-Ord in The Caucasian Chalk Circle.
Caitlin Beresford-Ord in The Caucasian Chalk Circle.

AUDITIONING for a role without actually acting is an unusual approach but one Caitlin Beresford-Ord was presented with by National Theatre of China director Dr Wang Xiaoying for The Caucasian Chalk Circle.

“We got talking about politics interestingly enough; we talked about the questions of nature and nurture, and the dehumanising aspect of war,” Beresford-Ord said.

“I love politics and it led to an interesting discussion and 24 hours later I had a call from my agent saying Dr Wang loved everything I’d had to say and I was in.

“He’d never seen me act but I think he wanted to know if people engaged with the ideas of the piece and trusted anyone Black Swan State Theatre Company was bringing in to see him could act.”

The Caucasian Chalk Circle is an international collaboration between Black Swan State Theatre Company and National Theatre of China, where Dr Wang Xiaoying will direct the Bertolt Brecht play performed in English with Mandarin surtitles.

The play was originally derived from 14th century Chinese fable Circle of Chalk by Li Xingdao. Beresford-Ord said this production moved back towards the ancient Chinese story Brecht used.

“We’re training in Chinese theatre and the movements that go with that, but with a distinctively Australian flavour,” Beresford-Ord said.

“They call it Chinese opera but they really mean theatre because opera covers everything (drama and music theatre) in China.

“There are beautiful masks and costumes and wonderful songs written by Clint Bracknell.”

The production is very different to the 1998 version Beresford-Ord was in during her days at WAAPA, where she played peasant girl Grusha who finds an abandoned infant and takes care of him as if he were her own.

That WAAPA production was set during the heart of the Yugoslav wars.

“Dr Wang very gently told me I was too old to play that role this time, which was fine and I understood,” Beresford-Ord said.

“I’m now the Governor’s wife who is interesting to play because she’s cruel, selfish and vicious and has no idea that she’s all these things.”

The Governor’s wife is also the mother who abandons her infant son and Beresford-Ord said her own motherhood made her look at the work in a new light.

“I’m a different person now because I’m a mother and wasn’t when I did it before, so there’s all these different perspectives that come into play,” she said.

THE ESSENTIALS

What: The Caucasian Chalk Circle

Where: Heath Ledger Theatre

When: July 30 to August 14

Tickets: www.ticketek.com.au