by William Shakespeare.
Noel Coward Theatre 85-88 St Martin’s Lane WC2N 4AU To 15 September.
Mon-Sat 7.30pm Mat Thu & Sat 2pm.
Audio-described 8 Sept 2pm, 12 Sept.
Captioned 14 Sept.
TICKETS: 020 7492 1548.
then Tour to 27 October 2012.
Runs 2hr 45min One interval.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 31 August.
Another triumph for Caesar.
Bags are searched as audiences enter the Noel Coward Theatre. This is, after all, a play which, like several of Shakespeare’s, looks at the consequences of a political assassination. And the plotting behind it, careful preparation meeting last-minute accidents, necessitating immediate improvisation.
Since opening at Stratford in June, Gregory Doran’s Royal Shakespeare Company production has acquired an interval, but otherwise arrives in London intact.
Doran’s modern African setting is illuminating, especially with this level of detailed intelligence. There’s a very different impact when Ricky Fearon’s cobbler, cheeking the Tribunes at the opening, isn’t Rome’s equivalent of a cheeky chappie who knows his rights, but someone aware rights are negligible when police freely wield their batons. His subversive answers come coated in the apparent naivety and appearance of stupidity by which common folk have escaped punishment through the centuries.
Among the great a steady oratory suits leaders used to power meaning their every pontification being received as inspired. But Jeffery Kissoon remembers Caesar has the “falling sickness” as he tries to hide the pain attacking him mid-speech.
It’s at his moment of highest confidence the daggers strike. Yet, effectively but strangely, his “Et tu Brute” comes the moment he turns to his friend for comfort and sees Brutus’ dagger. The stab, aimed low, comes later – possibly mirroring the self-inflicted thigh wound Portia has recently shown her husband.
If Caesar was authoritarian, Ray Fearon’s forceful Mark Antony is the same without reserve, or any noblesse oblige. In one of Doran’s perceptively original moments, Antony’s final reference to Caesar’s will, tearing up the document he’d shown the people, identifies him with modern politicians’ election pledges.
That Caesar could be intimidating is clear from Cyril Nri’s Cassius, more passionate and genuine than many. His smiling approach to Paterson Joseph’s reflective Brutus changes when Caesar’s “lean and hungry” criticism is addressed to him as a public humiliation, a frozen fear showing he’s aware what follows such denunciations.
With Joseph Mydell’s Casca, who sees what’s in front of him but owns up to no more, and other strengths noted at Stratford, this is a distinctive revival.
Julius Caesar: Jeffery Kissoon.
Calpurnia: Ann Ogbomo.
Marcus Brutus: Paterson Joseph.
Portia: Adjoa Adoh.
Caius Cassius: Cyril Nri.
Casca: Joseph Mydell.
Decius Brutus/Titinius: Andrew French.
Cinna/Clitus: Chinna Wodu.
Metellus Cimber/Messala: Mark Theodore.
Flavius/Trebonius/Varro: Segun Akingbola.
Caius Ligarius/Lepidus: Ewart James Walters.
Mark Antony: Ray Fearon.
Octavius Caesar: Ivanno Jeremiah.
Cobbler/Cicero/Popilius/Lucilius: Ricky Fearon.
Marullus/Publius/Octavius’ Servant/Pindarus: Marcus Griffiths.
Soothsayer: Theo Ogundipe.
Carpenter/Artemidorus/Cato: Mark Ebulue.
Cinna the Poet/Antony’s Servant: Jude Owusu.
Caesar’s Servant: Samantha Lawson.
Lucius: Simon Manyonda.
Director: Gregory Doran.
Designer: Michael Vale.
Lighting: Vince Herbert.
Sound: Jonathan Ruddick.
Music/Musical Director: Akintayo Akinbode.
Movement: Diane Alison-Mitchell.
Dialect coach: Penny Dyer.
Text/Voice work: Lyn Darnley.
Fights: Kevin McCurdy.
Associate director: Gbolahan Obisesan.
Additional movement: Struan Leslie.
Additional text/voice work: Cathleen McCarron.