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Reflections of a working writer and reader



Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar

We were at the Theatre Royal in Newcastle to see the Royal Shakespeare Company’s production of Julius Caesar, directed by Lucy Bailey.

It’s been a while since I’ve seen a production of the play, and I certainly came to Newcastle with some expectations for the language and power that Shakespeare added to the brew.

As Caesar’s legend and popularity look set to take him to the throne, his inner cabinet and friends conspire to prevent what they fear will become a dictatorship. His assassination, however, unleashes civil strife and a bloody and relentless war.

In order to give the audience some idea of the mob and the people of Rome, much use is made of video projections onto a series of screens, together with cheers and jeers and various other city-like sounds. Although this is very professionally done, it never seems to work, proving to be more of a distraction from the main action of the play, and therefore undermining it more than adding to its effectiveness.

Sam Troughton as Brutus turns in a troubled performance of the philosopher statesman transforming himself into a soldier, not helped at all by a wardrobe that verges at times on the brink of gender ambiguity.

Darrell D’Silva is an interesting and slightly overweight Mark Antony who comes close to overplaying his main speech, as though he doesn’t really believe the inner power of the text.

John MacKay is impressive as Cassius, tall and thin and needy and, quite surprisingly, he drew more sympathy from me than Brutus.

Greg Hicks, is an arrogant Caesar. Perhaps too young and lacking in gravitas, but believable nevertheless, and bringing some humour into the proceedings.

For me, Hannah Young’s performance as Portia, especially in her scene with Brutus, was the most moving and memorable of the evening.

This was not a great production and ultimately disappointing. It gives a taste of the play’s possibilities without really delivering. Julius Caesar returns to Stratford-upon-Avon in Summer 2010 for a limited number of performances.

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