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Adeola Yemitan - The Caucasian Chalk Circle Interview

Rose Theatre in Kingston are about to mount the first major London revival of Bertolt Brecht's The Caucasian Chalk Circle in 25 years. The show will run at the theatre from 1st until the 22nd of October 2022 and will be directed by Rose Artistic Director Christopher Haydon.

Adeola Yemitan

The production which stars Carrie Hope Fletcher as Grusha and Jonathan Singer as Azdak will also star rising young talent Adeola Yemitan. Ahead of the production, I was fortunate enough to speak to Adeola about the piece.

Adeola began by telling more about the piece and the roles of Aide/Younger Lady/Soldier that she'll be playing "in our adaption by Steve Waters, the outer narrative is set in a refuge camp, so it's these refugees and there's a conflict over land and this story is told with the refugees. My role within the play, we're all multi-rolling except Carrie as Grusha and Jonathan as Azdak, so I'm playing the aide, a younger lady as well as playing a soldier and I also play a doctor."

"Within the world of the play there is a clear theme of class that runs throughout the play, so depending on how you play it and how the work continues to materialise, they are almost caricatures at certain points of the class distinction that we see in society. The Governor's aide is clearly from a higher class and she is aiding the governer's wife as they try to flee when there is a coup. The Governor's brother leads a coup against the Governor and the Governor's aide is helping the Governor's wife to flee and as they're doing that they forget the Governor's child and they leave the child behind"

"I'm also playing a younger lady who is a refugee but because all the people who are fleeing are mainly, but not all, from the upper class and you have this older lady and younger lady who are refugees fleeing and Grusha who is a servant who takes the Governor's child. You only see the younger lady when Grusha tries to pretend that she's upper class so that she can essentially hitch a ride from this older and younger lady and when they realise she's serving class they freak out and try to kick her out. So that's where you see the younger lady, again it's a moment that you see her and its that caricature of the class divide"

"There is also the soldier character who when the power shift turns its about who do they side with, where does their allegiance lie and where does power lie and that's what you see with the soldier characters."

I then posed to Adeola what was it that attracted her to the piece, she told me "a big thing was the music. The music is by Michael Henry, who has worked on Barber Shop Chronicles and other great shows, and our production is very music heavy, there are 28 songs in the play, and all of it aside from a guitar everything else is vocal music that the ensemble makes. It's really complicated as well it's not easy stuff but it's a challenge that I'm enjoying and I'm really enjoying working with Michael and working with everyone else to learn the songs and to give it the fullness and the energy that we need as well as doing all the movement and all the multi-rolling. Multi-rolling also attracted me to the job, getting to play with different characters, playing with physicality, playing with voice and how does this small group of actors tell this quite complicated story"

When our chat began Adeola said how they're very much in the early stages of developing the piece with the opening not until October 1st so I posed to her what is the process she goes through once she's got a role. She explained "I think it really depends on the project, so with this play because it is so complex and roles are still shifting as they're working on the script so it was kind of hard to pin down work on the characters but for me, it was really asking questions about the world of the play, asking questions about the journey of the play and then trying to get a sort of watercolour wash of where your characters stand especially in the context of this play. It's useful to be like this is an upper-class person, where do they stand in this conflict, what are their attitudes to the main characters and what are their relationships with each other. That was the only way I could really approach it for this show before getting into the room because it's not like there's one person with a throughline, some characters appear once and never appear again you can't really work out their journey so for me it's really about trying to understand the world, especially the world of the refugee camp versus the world of the chalk circle and the narrative they then tell"

Being the first London revival for 25 years I asked Adeola what she thought the piece says to a modern audience now. She said "I think that's still to be found because it's still so early in the process but I think in terms of conflict and morality those things are timeless and I don't know whether that is more relevant now, I just think there's a timelessness to that narrative that everyone can learn something from especially when you're looking at the morality of the individual which is what the story starts to hone in on"

For me personally, I first got to see Adeola in 2021 in National Youth Theatre's spectacular double header of Othello and Animal Farm, I knew there and then she'd be a star, and she continues to rise, earlier this year performance in the Much Ado About Nothing at the Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford-Upon-Avon which was shown on the BBC and has recently completed a tour of SUPERNOVA. I asked Adeola how working with an organisation like the National Youth Theatre has helped her develop as an artist, she said "I think the great thing about National Youth Theatre is they trust the young people who they work with to just do it, and for me, I didn't want a training space where they sort of kid me until they thought I was ready, they thought you're ready, go for it. Let's put you in front of an audience, let's put you in front of industry and that was where the training came. It was a safe space where I was not necessarily risking professional reputation because I'm still in the Youth Theatre but they're putting me in a professional setting and that helped us an ensemble to grow really quickly and even now as I work with them they still trust me sort of implicitly to do the next thing. I've started directing because of them essentially because they trusted me, it's not something I wanted to do but they trusted me to try it and they gave me the space and the resource to do it. So just having their support and pushing me to do things I haven't done and not feeling like you have to hide before you're ready they're like the time is now and I think that's what's so great about the National Youth Theatre."

It's great to see such an exciting talent continue to grow and I posed to Adeola what keeps her motivated as an artist, she told me "it's having a sense of grounding and having a daily routine that keeps my brain clear and that can be really simple. For me, it's just about staying really present and being open to other artists and other kinds of art and just having simple things every morning that reminds me that I am enough as I am and that I can feel absorb more talent and more information and it doesn't impact my value or sense of worth to be inspired by other things"

I asked the same question I ask all my interviewees of what does theatre mean to you? Adeola said "I think that is a question I always ask myself and it's still growing for what does it mean to me cause I'm always asking what is theatre in the first place other than sitting and watching a play, is a fashion show theatre? Is street performance theatre? Singing a song is that theatre? Giving a lecture is that theatre? Watching a wrestling match is that theatre? It pops up in so many different places and I think part of it is transporting you for a moment into a different world and another part is shifting your perspective on the world and that can happen in so many different ways. That is a broad answer but I'm always asking that question to myself, why do I do it and why do I keep on doing it"

Our chat wrapped us as Adeola simply explained why anyone should come and see The Caucasian Chalk Circle. She told me "everyone should come and see the show because there is a lot of talent, there's a lot of new music, there's a lot of creativity, I think it'll be really fun. It's going to be really dynamic. It's a very talented ensemble of artists moving, making music and creating new worlds, that's what this show is going to be."

The Caucasian Chalk Circle plays at Rose Theatre in Kingston from Saturday 1st until Saturday 22nd October 2022. Tickets are available from

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