by William Shakespeare.
The Roundhouse Chalk Farm Road NW1 8EH In rep to 5 February 2011.
7.15pm 18, 26 Jan, 1, 5 Feb.
Mat 1.15pm 27 Jan.
Audio-described/Captioned 18 Jan.
Runs 2hr 55min One interval.
TICKETS: 0844 482 8008.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 10 January.
A Caesar red in tooth and claw.
Julius Caesar might have been an example of influencing people without making friends, and Lucy Bailey’s Royal Shakespeare Company revival impresses with the force of its convictions without bringing audiences close to the play. Influenced by a TV history of Rome, Bailey adds a brief movement-based prologue showing the city’s fraternal founders Romulus and Remus gouging each other. And she doesn’t let up from there on.
It’s a rare Caesar where Octavius seems more compassionate than Mark Antony. Joseph Arkley showing consideration of fellow Triumvir Lepidus’s feelings at having a relative executed in the revenge for Caesar’s assassination, while Darrell D’Silva’s Antony is a prowling monster of bloodthirsty revenge, though his final tribute to Brutus hardly fits this character.
The assassins are vapid in comparison. Lean and hungry he may be, but John Mackay’s Cassius shows some friendship towards Brutus, while Sam Troughton merely stands dithering within his own conscience – even the added ghost of his self-killed wife arouses no response.
As for Caesar himself, the war seems within. Greg Hicks, always powerfully expressive of moral subtlety and angst is an unlikely actor for the self-assured ruler. He makes a nervy figure, protected by his lack of imagination, with a comical edge to his smile and gesture of understanding when a conspirator puts a positive spin on Calphurnia’s fateful dream. Noma Dumezweni’s horrified look as her attempt to save him is undermined is among the evening’s strongest impressions.
William Dudley’s video, multiplying the Roman mob and showing a giant statue of Caesar falling to rubble before his death provide a 21st century equivalent to the pictorial illustration of Victorian Shakespeare. The cost is the acres of verse adequately handled but hardly keenly detailed in delivering their sense. This is particularly the case in the shorter, less clearly charted second part; despite the graphics, a bit more stage furniture from time to time might have enabled greater variety of speech by giving actors an anchor.
The other memorable moment confirms this – Caesar repeatedly stabbed as he stands triumphantly on a pedestal, surprised and defiant; at once confident ruler and dogged soldier.
Julius Caesar: Greg Hicks.
Calphurnia: Noma Dumezweni.
Portia: Hannah Young.
Lucius/Romulus: Tunji Kasim.
Remus/Octavius Caesar/Artemidorus: Joseph Arkley.
Marcus Brutus: Sam Troughton.
Cassius: John Mackay.
Casca/Pindarus: Oliver Ryan.
Decius Brutus/Poet: Brian Doherty.
Cinna/Young Cato: Gruffudd Glyn.
Trebonius/Lucilius: David Rubin.
Metellus Cimber/Titinius: Adam Burton.
Caius Ligarius/Messala: Paul Hamilton.
Cicero/Lepidus/Caesar’s Servant/Dardanius: James Gale.
Publius/Marullus/Cinna the Poet/Clitus: Patrick Romer.
Popilius/Flavius/Antony’s Servant/Volumnius: Phillip Edgerley.
Mark Antony: Darrell D’Silva.
Soothsayer/Octavius’ Servant/Strato: Larrington Walker.
Soothsayer’s Acolyte: Samantha Young.
Calphurnia’s Servant: Simone Saunders.
Priestess: Kirsty Woodward.
Director: Lucy Bailey.
Designer/Video: William Dudley.
Lighting: Oliver Fenwick.
Sound: Fergus O’Hare.
Music: Django Bates.
Music Director: Paul Frankish.
Movement: Sarah Dowling, Struan Leslie, Lucy Cullingford.
Costume: Fotini Dimou.
Fights: Philip D’Orleans.
Assistant director: Justin Audibert.
Assistant composer: Tim Adnitt.