Southern Gazette (South Perth) - - LIFESTYLE -

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. Beres­fordOrd 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 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.

Tanya MacNaughton

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