Julius Caesar, 3***, London

by William Shakespeare.

The Bridge Theatre, 3 Potters Fields Park, London SE1 2SG to 15 April 2018.
Tues-Sat 7.45pm Mat Wed & Sat 2.30pm & Sun 3pm
Runs 2 hr No interval.

TICKETS: 0843 208 1846.
Review: William Russell 31 January

Lots of sound a fury, flashing lights and fainting

The striking thing about Nicholas Hytner’s production of this somewhat broken backed play – the first half dealing with the murder of Caesar and the political repercussions is fascinating, the subsequent wars less so – is that he has used it to demonstrate the versatility of his brand new theatre. The auditorium has been transformed into an arena with seats all round and where the stalls should be becomes the gladiatorial place with a floor which rises and falls miraculously while round about some 250 members of the audience as the Roman mob are pushed hither and thither by ushers carrying banners, drowned in leaflets, given nowhere to sit and deluged in sound from a rather ghastly rock band – an experience which led one or two to faint.

The casting is as diverse as could be wished these days with lots of the roles, notably Cassius (Michelle Farley) and Casca (Adjoa Andoh) being played by women as women. It works well enough in the political scenes, less so in the scenes of battle. The reliable David Calder is Caesar, David Morrisey a somewhat lacklustre Antony and Ben Wishaw is a diminutive and lacking in nobility Brutus. His bum freezer suit for the scenes in the senate is really a little bit too much and he is not a natural wielder of a pistol.

Farley’s Cassius gets better as the evening goes on, Andoh is very impressive as Casca, Calder has done this sort of thing before, and Morrisey – at least the night I saw it – failed to transform the mob from baying for blood to loving the memory of Caesar when asking for its ears.

They all rise above the rock music, the flashing lights, the sounds of very loud gunfire well enough – they are all miked which helps– and the time does pass albeit somewhat wearily as the seating in the Bridge seems designed for people with short legs, a design law in a brand new theatre that should have been avoided. Being deafened is one thing, getting cramp another.
The RSC at the Barbican opted for the togas and classical columns approach in its current staging, but Hytner gives us war as it is fought nowadays in Syria or the Balkans. The modern setting is fine, but it has been done before even if not quite so spectacularly – the whole thing reeks of little boys – and girls – playing with their brand new toys.

The result does show that lots can be done with the Bridge’s space but it is probably not a production that will feature in the history books and the promenading is not worth doing – let alone watching.

Casca: Adjoa Andoh
Julius Caesar: David Calder
Portia: Leaphia Darko.
Marullus/Artemidorus: Rosie Ede.
Cassius: Michelle Fairley.
Decius Brutus: Leila Frazad.
Lucius, Cinna the poet, Street Band: Fred Fergus.
Philo, Claudius, Street Band: Zachary Hart.
Calpurnia: Wendy Kweh.
Mark Antony: David Morrissey.
Lepidius. Caius, Soothsayer: Mark Penfold.
Trebonius, Street Band: Abraham Popoola.
Flavius, Popilius Lena: Sid Sagar.
Cinna: Nick Sampson.
Metellus Cimber: Hannah Stokeley.
Marcus Brutus: Ben Wishaw.
Octavius, Street Band: Kit Young.

Director: Nicholas Hytner.
Production Design: Bunny Christie.
Costume Design: Christina Cunningham.
Lighting Design: Bruno Poet.
Sound Design: Paul Arditti.
Composer: Nick Powell.
Fight Director: Kate Waters.

2018-02-05 10:37:35

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