Writer: William Shakespeare
Director: Gregory Doran
Reviewer: Tony Oliver
The Public Reviews Rating:
The Bradford Alhambra was the latest venue on the RSC’s tour of the William Shakespeare play Julius Caesar which is touring until October 27th 2012. Rome had been transported to modern day Africa, and on entering the auditorium the cast are playing music and acting out a marketplace scene, interacting with the audience as they arrive. From the outset the music (Akintayo Akinbode) creates a wonderful evocative atmosphere that sets the scene for the rest of the play. The set (Michael Vale) resembles a damaged building formed in steps with a central opening, metal protrudes from the concrete, creating the atmosphere of a war damaged village. The lighting (Vince Herbert) enhances this set throughout the performance transforming from Senate House to Battlefield seamlessly and simply.
Julius Caesar (Jeffery Kissoon) has returned to Rome triumphant from the war against Pompey the Great. The Romans Republic prepares to heap him with new honours, causing concern among some senators who fear too much power is held by one man. Caius Cassius (Cyril Nri) plots to murder Caesar and enlists the support of his respected brother Marcus Brutus (Paterson Joseph). Caesar warned by a soothsayer (Theo Ogundipe) to “Beware the ides of March” and worried by the dreams of his wife Calpurnia (Ann Ogbomo) initially heeds the warning before being persuaded to attend the senate meeting. When the conspirators murder Caesar, Mark Antony (Ray Fearon) addresses the crowd at the funeral and turns the mob against the conspirators who are forced to flee Rome. The performance in this section was a perfect example of persuasive rhetoric, performed with humility and power to win over the mob.
Most people will know the story and many people will know snippets of the famous rhetoric within this play, “Friend, Romans, Countrymen lend me your ears” being just one example. In this performance the talented ensemble quickly draws in the audience to a world of conspiracy, murder and at times a bit of comedy. Well-known lines being delivered with power and majesty by the leading players.
The cast deliver a performance that shows the power of the writing and the modern interpretation set in Africa complements the play and its themes. The power of the ensemble and the atmospheric simplicity of set, sound (Jonathan Ruddick), music and lighting reinvigorate this play in such a way as to make it a must see. Julius Caesar sees Shakespeare’s understanding of the power of rhetoric and its influence on politics reach the highest level and this performance by the RSC delivers on that power.
Runs until 29th September 2012
Tags: Akintayo Akinbode, Alhambra Theatre, Arts Council, Bradford, Cyril Nri, Friends Romans Countrymen, Gregory Doran, Jeffery Kissoon, Jonathan Ruddick, Michael Vale, Paterson Joseph, Ray Fearon, Royal Shakespeare Company, Theo Ogundipe, Vince Herbert