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So anyway,
Because what the Net really needs is another person sharing his uninformed views
Theatre review: Julius Caesar 
7th-Aug-2010 09:44 pm
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I really should watch my off-the-cuff comments about Shakespeare plays. After saying I'd only see another Romeo and Juliet if someone like Rupert Goold directed it, he did, and I ended up in Stratford Upon Avon in May (admittedly that turned out to be a good move, so much so that I've booked to see it again when it comes to London.) After seeing a modern-dress Antony and Cleopatra on the same trip, I commented to aka_kelly that despite the popular image of actors in togas, I'd seen the Roman plays done in every theme except Roman. Next thing I know, I see an image of The EnsembleTM's Julius Caesar in Roman gear. So off to Stratford I go again (this time putting up with train chaos both on the way there and back.) Was it worth it?

Well it's not quite togas but the costume design (by Fotini Dimou) does have a period feel - Lucy Bailey's production is (openly) influenced in design and theme by the TV series Rome. It opens with what I took to be a bloody gladiatorial battle, but which the programme informs me was a reenactment of Romulus and Remus' fight to the death, founding Rome in blood, and this violence and brutality are always foregrounded. John Mackay as Cassius and Sam Troughton as Brutus lead the plotters to assassinate Greg Hicks' Caesar, while a baying Roman mob (bulked up with the ubiquitous video projections) swaps allegiances easily. As with Bailey's recent Macbeth, I found the setpieces' effectiveness contrasted with how the more dialogue-heavy scenes lacked oomph. This not being one of my favourite plays to start with, it meant I was left cold a lot of the time and despite the actors' best efforts not many characters really came to life, not helped by the multiple doubling: Despite a large cast I found that, though not actually confusing, this was somehow distracting. (I have no idea why; doubling up roles is something I rarely have a problem with, but for some reason, maybe to do with which characters shared an actor and when they appeared, it bugged me here, as it did a bit in Morte D'Arthur. Or maybe it's a side-effect of The EnsembleTM - seeing them all whirling around each other in endless different configurations in, so far, four plays, the roles may all be starting to blur.)

Being in the front row did help make the more spectacular scenes work for me (someone in the row behind said they'd actually been splashed by stage blood, which must have flown over our heads) but overall this isn't a production to change my mind about a play that rarely sucks me into its world.

Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare is in repertory until the 4th of September at the Courtyard Theatre, Stratford Upon Avon.¹

¹and this marks my last visit to the Courtyard; even if I make Stratford trips in future years (which my experiences on the trains mean will have to be for a very good reason) by then the newly redesigned main theatres will have reopened, so this temporary home will have been dismantled.
Comments 
(Deleted comment)
8th-Aug-2010 02:11 pm (UTC)
It's had some decent reviews so yeah I guess people who like the play are happy with the production - it's a change from all the ones where they're politicians in suits, anyway.

The train was on a diversion because of engineering works, and it didn't go all the way to SUA, and the connecting train they recommended would have got me there after the play had started. The conductor suggested I get off at Leamington and get the bus; when I did, it turned out there isn't a bus from Leamington to SUA and I had to get a taxi (I'm going to send a complaints form and try to get the cost of that back but not holding my breath.) On the way back I got the train from Stratford to Leamington Spa but the conductor said there wasn't a train from Leamington to London, we'd have to go part of the way then get a replacement bus. I checked at Leamington and didn't get the train he recommended because there was one going to London, we'd have got off and got a bus for no reason (that's if there even was a bus.) Basically not only did they cancel a load of trains but nobody knew what any of the alternatives were - out every every three things anyone said, maybe one was accurate.
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