With a story containing an assassination, political intrigue, civil war and countless deaths, it's a bit of a surprise to have to concede that Julius Caeasar is frankly rather dull. Lucy Bailey does her best to create more excitement although the blood and gore is substantially reduced from her Titus Andronicus at the Globe. William Dudley makes exceptional use of video screens to conjure up Rome's seething proletariat or massed ranks of legionnaires. Greg Hicks wasn't sufficiently autocratic as Caesar to justify his fate but Sam Troughton was excellent as a doubt-ridden Brutus, even if his frequent soliloquies did much to add to the longuers. Daniel D'Silva was an impressively physical Mark Anthony and his impassioned eulogy to Caesar was the undoubted highlight. There was also a nice cameo from Hannah Young as the tragic Portia (Mrs. Brutus), one of only two female characters, which might be part of the problem with this play. Even Shakespeare is entitled to the odd play which does not live up to his genius, or maybe the RSC has been outshone by HBO and their vibrant, if inaccurate, portrayal of ancient Rome. - David Baxter
28 Jan 11
A cut above other productions - the entire cast is excellent and the production so exciting the A level students at the back stopped eating their noodles.
Darrell D Silva and Greg Hicks stand out. Only issue is that Brutus is a dead ringer for Ed Balls. - Emma Salter
20 Jan 11
Marginally better than the 2006(?) RSC production before the builders came in - this is a flashy (all the video gimmicks work well) but really rather poor effort.
Sure, it's a difficult play, but if Brutus is not believable as a noble senior Roman (Sam T really isn't up to it in the gravitas department), Caesar isn't believable as a great leader of men (Hicks isn't) and Mark Anthony is played more like Falstaff (looking forward to seeing Darrell d'Silva in that role, not this) - the whole thing really doesn't work.
Style over substance - this was something of a let-down. - JC
13 Jan 11
This production was a great disappointment. Fresh from the triumphant 'Winter's Tale' we expected great things from the Roman play, and the opening was promising, with the wolf-like Romulus and Remus snarling and tearing at each other, followed by a splendid lupercal with a vivid combination of projected crowds and energetic movement. There the pleasure largely ended. The projections went on and on and on, distractingly, in the background throughout the first half, waving their arms during the big set piece speeches as if attending a 'Take That' concert, and the crowd sounds seeemed to bear little relation to what was being said. Too much technology, not enough Shakespeare. Casting was odd, too, with Cassius in particular appearing ill at ease and flatly monotoned at all times - even when dying. Brutus was played like a sixth-former out of his depth, eyes like a startled rabbit, at times muttering his lines inaudibly. 'Noble'? Hardly. These two killed the play's momentum and left the conspiracy with all the tension of a team meeting before their Saturday bowls match. Their motivation never really emerged clearly. After the interval it was worse. Incoherent, fragmented, never in the least moving, the cast banged their shields together and roared energetically without it being clear what they were fighting for. I was glad when it ended. On the plus side, Mark Antony was vigorous and delivered his great speech movingly in spite of the background distractions. Julius Caesar made the most of his limited opportunities; appearing far more noble and sympathetic than any of his opponents - why they wanted to kill him was a little mysterious. All in all, well below the standard one expects of the RSC. I had the feeling that the director had paid too much attention to inappropriate technical effects and too little to the actors.
- Jim Waite
27 Jun 09
Whilst directors wishing to emphasise that Shakespeare's Julius Caesar remains relevant for modern audiences often choose to set the play in recent times, Lucy Bailey's RSC production, which places the action firmly in Ancient Rome, makes a very strong case for rejecting this approach.
For one thing, William Dudley has produced a stunning setting, which feels no less authentic or powerful for largely deriving from images projected onto a large screen on the back wall of the theatre. Before the start a picture of a she-wolf suckling two human babies hints at the mythical founding of Rome; subsequently a huge statue of Caesar falls to pieces before our eyes on the eve of his assassination and we watch the Capitol gradually being engulfed in flames as the turmoil caused by his death increases. In addition, an array of gauze curtains, angled across the back of the stage, captures multiple images of the Roman mob and the various armies, giving us a real impression of their size. These effects create a real sense of spectacle and help to emphasise the story's powerful sense of immediacy, ensuring that we become so involved in the action that we cannot fail to appreciate its relevance to our own time.
The Roman setting also encourages an appreciation of the play's inherent ambiguity. In writing the piece Shakespeare took no sides in the argument about whether Caesar's assassination was right or wrong, but if it is staged in a contemporary or near-contemporary context we can find ourselves automatically assuming that the conspirators' actions are justified.
In this production, the play's ambivalence towards the events it depicts is emphasised by fine portrayals of the principal characters. John Mackay's suitably manipulative Cassius is scornful of Caesar's abilities in his absence yet recoils in terror when he thinks that he might have found out about the conspiracy, whilst Sam Troughton's apparently well-intentioned Brutus undermines own his insistence that Caesar has been killed in the name of freedom and liberty when he tries to restrict what Mark Antony says at the funeral. Mark Antony himself (played by Darrell d'Silva) is truly devastated by Caesar's death and his oration in the market-place is so utterly convincing that we cannot help but be swept along by it.
And Greg Hicks gives us a wonderful Caesar, one whose haughty public manner contrasts vividly with the warmth, conviviality and genuine affection he displays in private towards those he believes to be his supporters and friends. Moreover we never for a moment doubt that his prowess as a soldier and leader has earned the public triumph that is being celebrated as the play begins, and he dies so magnificent a death, displaying immense personal courage as he tries to fight off the conspirators, that the necessity for his assassination is called even more into question.
Choosing which, if any, side to take may not be easy, but I cannot urge you strongly enough to go and see this superb production and decide for yourselves!
- Janet Polson
26 Jun 09
I have seen some great productions at Stratford over the last few months (with the exception of the execrably poor Don Juan), but this isn't one of them. The only high point was Sam Troughton's Brutus who was excellent. I also liked the use of video in the crowd scenes. Everything esle was uninspired, In particular, Mark Antony was drab and made one of the most inspiring speeches in all of Shakespeare seem flat. - Tom Doneghan
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