by William Shakespeare.
Donmar Warehouse 41 Earlham Street WC2H 9LX To 9 February 2013.
Mon-Sat 7.30pm Mat Thu & Sat 2.30pm.
Audio-described 2 Feb 2.30pm (+ Touch Tour 1.30pm).
Captioned 28 Jan.
Runs 2hr No interval.
Tickets: 0844 871 7624.
Review: Carole Woddis 7 December.
Politics all the way in rough terrain revival.
Phyllida Lloyd doesn’t pull her punches with her barnstorming, all-female production of one of Shakespeare’s most political plays.
It’s set in a prison – interestingly, with its stripped-back walls, designer Bunny Christie makes the Donmar reminiscient of what it looked like when, as the Donmar Warehouse, the RSC and Peter Brook staged experimental seasons there.
Lloyd’s concept is a brilliantly striking visual coup, at once immersive and symbolic of a hermetic, over-heated power capsule where events are played out against ever-watchful cameras and prison officers who intrude, snatching away performers so that, by chance, another prisoner has to stand in for Cinna the Poet – making startlingly graphic the point about being caught up in mob violence. Wrong person in the wrong place at the wrong time; harsh reality.
Lloyd makes sure we feel it viscerally in Christie’s setting with its glaring strip-lighting, grey plastic seats and intermittent crashing music from on-stage musicians who suddenly emerge from the cast.
As to the play’s actual dynamics, Lloyd has slightly less success though Frances Barber’s Caesar, in black leather coat and beret strikes a terrifyingly macabre figure – part Mafioso boss, part Berlusconi. Harriet Walter’s Brutus conveys a wonderfully troubled, complex Brutus whose inner conflicts are always well delineated. Cush Jumbo and Jenny Jules – Mark Antony and Cassius respectively – present clearly spoken if one-dimensional figures.
Julius Caesar is such an extraordinary charting of political power transferred under the most frenzied of circumstances, of those who conspire to destroy it and its consequent effect on their lives and relationships. Its shifts and currents can literally keep you on the edge of your seat.
Lloyd’s bold gestural, intelligent production seldom loses momentum but in a rattling two hour traffic doesn’t always manage to explore these ebbs and flows with sufficient subtlety.
These days, most single-gender productions are themselves making a political point. Lloyd’s is no exception, given the gender imbalance within the Shakespeare canon against women as creative artists. Fame is not so much the spur here as the opportunity to revamp Julius Caesar in a completely fresh, challenging and ultimately subversive image. This she achieves by some margin.
Calpurnia/Metellus Cimber/Pindarus: Jade Anouka.
Caesar: Frances Barber.
Prison Guard: Alice Bell.
Casca: Ishia Bennison.
Cinna The Poet/Drums: Helen Cripps.
Portia/Octavius Caesar: Clare Dunne.
Trebonius: Jen Joseph.
Lucius: Charlotte Josephine.
Cassius: Jenny Jules.
Mark Antony: Cush Jumbo.
Dardanius/Guitar: Irene Ketikidi.
Soothsayer: Carrie Rock.
Cinna/Volumnius: Carolina Valdés.
Brutus: Harriet Walter.
Lepidus/Clitus/Bass: Danielle Ward.
Director: Phyllida Lloyd.
Designer: Bunny Christie.
Lighting: Neil Austin.
Sound: Tom Gibbons.
Composer: Gary Yershon.
Movement: Ann Yee.
Vocal coach: Barbara Houseman.
Fight director: Kate Waters.
Assistant director: Hannah Price.
Associate movement: Carolina Valdés.
First performance of this production of Julius Caesar at the Donmar Warehouse Theatre, London on 30 November, 2012.