Steep steps, an ominous tunnel and a giant statue of the man-of-the-moment dominate the acting area. What we see tends to overwhelm what we hear; best to think of it as a production in a foreign language with which we are familiar, but which is not our mother-tongue. Of the main cast, Jeffery Kissoon in the title role, Joseph Mydell's Caca, Ray Fearon's impassioned Antony (delivering an impressively shaded “Friends, Romans, countrymen” speech) and Theo Ogundipe's witch-doctor Soothsayer stand out.
There is a good contrast between the sincerity of Paterson Joseph's Brutus and the more devious Cassius of Cyril Nri. Ricky Fearon offers a sketch of elder-statesman Cicero which rings true as a slightly fusty academic, strong on theory but wary of practice. We feel sorry for Cinna the Poet (Jude Owusu) as the enraged populace “necklaces” him and laugh with Simon Manyonda as Brutus' servant Lucius, both overworked (he keeps on dropping of to sleep) and just oh-so-slightly over-indulged.
Seven musicians grouped to one side at
the top of the steps provide their own commentary as the tragedy
unfolds. The Rome of the dying Republic is over 2,000 years rmoved
from us. The political situations of the late 16th century
in Europe and the British Isles are just as distanced. But, as
previous up-dated productions of Julius Caesar and
now this RSC one so clearly demonstrated, the hunger for power still
dominates the 21st century. And, of course, so does its
ability to corrupt. Utterly.