This particular rendition of Shakespeare’s famous Roman tragedy forms part of the RSC’s World Shakespeare Festival 2012. Guest actors, directors and musicians have been brought in from all around the globe to help celebrate Shakespeare’s role as a global playwright, not just a national icon. You can find out more about the festival itself by following this link - http://www.worldshakespearefestival.org.uk/about/
Gregory Doran directs a Julius Caesar set in modern Africa which echoes the recent uprisings against dictatorships which have taken place there. The setting is made obvious through the use of flags, ethnic music and a cast made up of solely black actors, although the script has not been altered and refers often to Rome.
The set itself echoes a Roman amphitheatre with large steps which lead up at the back of the stage, yet this is given a modern edge by exposing some of the reinforcements which lie beneath the concrete in a section at the back of the steps. The set was also expanded quickly and very effectively through the use of poles and fabric to form a tent in Brutus’s camp. The musicians often sat on these steps to play which provided the audience with a great view of their interesting collection of authentic African instruments.
The play seems to be fairly condensed, taking place over just 2 hours and 15 minutes with no interval, yet the fast paced action means that you are always kept on your toes.
The cast consists of a large ensemble of incredibly talented actors and Doran made use of them brilliantly. He had just the right number to make crowd scenes credible but not cluttered on stage, and the interaction between cast and audience in the 15 minutes prior to the performance helped break down the divide between stage and seating to make you feel really emotionally involved with the action unfolding in front of you. But for me, although the quality of the acting was exceptional as always, Paterson Joseph’s portrayal of Brutus really stole the show. His presentation of Brutus really brought about the duality of the character and his motives behind all of his actions. He definitely portrayed a Brutus for modern times.
The only criticism I have of the play was the lack of blood involved. I have seen a couple of productions of Julius Caesar at the RSC in recent years and all of them have resulted in the stage being awash with fake blood. Personally, the death of Caesar was not credible in the slightest since he was stabbed 6 or 7 times without even a drop of blood on his body, and yet Brutus and the other conspirators washed their hands in blood to the side of his body. When the robe of the dead Caesar was displayed by Mark Anthony later on, it had blood stains where daggers had pierced the fabric and subsequently the flesh, a big discrepancy between the events as seen on stage and those perceived to have happened. This is perhaps a minor detail, but for me it was the only fault of the performance, slightly marring an otherwise perfect production.
There are still tickets available to see the show live and in my opinion, it’s definitely worth making the journey. A definite must-see.