Theatre review: Julius Caesar at the Noel Coward Theatre

15:13 23 August 2012

PERMITTED FOR USE IN NEWSPAPERS, MAGAZINES, TV & INTERNET TO ACCOMPANY EDITORIAL IN CONNECTION WITH THE RSC. FOR ANY OTHER USE, PLEASE CONTACT EPO.

Royal Shakespeare Company
JULIUS CAESAR by William Shakespeare
Directed by Gregory Doran

Pictured: Paterson Joseph (Brutus) Ð with blood on hands and dagger and Cyril Nri (Caius Cassius) and Theo Ogundipe (A Soothsayer) plus company
Photography by Kwame Lestrade.  Please credit.
Copyright: RSC

28 May Ð 7 July 2012
Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon

19 Ð 28 July 2012
Theatre Royal, Newcastle-upon-Tyne
 
8 August Ð 22 September 2012
No‘l Coward Theatre, London
Press night: Wednesday 15 September 2012, 7pm

UK Tour

19 Ð 22 September 2012 :Waterside Theatre, Aylesbury
25 Ð 29 September 2012: Alhambra Theatre, Bradford
02 Ð 06 October 2012: The Lowry, Salford
16 Ð 20 October 2012: Theatre Royal, Norwich
23 Ð 27 October 2012: New Theatre, Cardiff

An Illuminations/RSC production for BBC Four, Julius Caesar airs late June as part of BBC Shakespeare Unloc

PERMITTED FOR USE IN NEWSPAPERS, MAGAZINES, TV & INTERNET TO ACCOMPANY EDITORIAL IN CONNECTION WITH THE RSC. FOR ANY OTHER USE, PLEASE CONTACT EPO. Royal Shakespeare Company JULIUS CAESAR by William Shakespeare Directed by Gregory Doran Pictured: Paterson Joseph (Brutus) Ð with blood on hands and dagger and Cyril Nri (Caius Cassius) and Theo Ogundipe (A Soothsayer) plus company Photography by Kwame Lestrade. Please credit. Copyright: RSC 28 May Ð 7 July 2012 Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon 19 Ð 28 July 2012 Theatre Royal, Newcastle-upon-Tyne 8 August Ð 22 September 2012 No‘l Coward Theatre, London Press night: Wednesday 15 September 2012, 7pm UK Tour 19 Ð 22 September 2012 :Waterside Theatre, Aylesbury 25 Ð 29 September 2012: Alhambra Theatre, Bradford 02 Ð 06 October 2012: The Lowry, Salford 16 Ð 20 October 2012: Theatre Royal, Norwich 23 Ð 27 October 2012: New Theatre, Cardiff An Illuminations/RSC production for BBC Four, Julius Caesar airs late June as part of BBC Shakespeare Unloc

Archant

A thrilling reworking brings startling clarity to Shakespeare’s study of ruthless political struggle

»The RSC’s thrilling Julius Caesar is one of those once-in-a-generation reworkings that brings a startlingly fresh understanding to the depiction of ruthless political struggle, the seizure of power in the wake of war and the ultimate futility of idealism.

It shows events that could have taken place in any number of modern Middle Eastern or African states, but director Gregory Doran – inspired by Nelson Mandela’s reading of Shakespeare while in prison – chooses to set the play in sub-Saharan Africa, where recent history is plagued with bitter fighting between Western-backed warlords over territory, blood diamonds and other natural resources.

Caesar, the former army general, is a typical warlord – “a man of such feeble temper,” as Cassius says – vain and brutal.

Cassius, the moral authority of the crumbling state, is splendidly played by Cyril Nri as clear-sighted but fearful Roman Senator, wary of Caesar’s cynical bid for kingship and absolute power, and convinced that the state can only be saved by his assassination.

Despite his opposition to violence, Brutus is drawn into the conspiracy. A stunning performance by Paterson Joseph shows him as a tortured idealist and revolutionary who convinces himself that the corruption of the state can only be halted by Caesar’s death.

Bathed in Caesar’s blood, Brutus urges the conspirators to go to the marketplace and cry “Peace, Freedom and Liberty”. Even as he says it, the phrase begins to sound hollow.

But his lack of ruthlessness ultimately seals his fate, when he refuses to countenance the death of Mark Antony, Caesar’s chief ally, and allows him to speak at Caesar’s funeral.

Antony, brilliantly portrayed by Ray Fearon as the great political manipulator, moves the crowd to tears, and they turn on the conspirators. One is captured and killed – a prologue to the deaths of both Cassius and Brutus and the establishment of a regime just as bloody as the one they sought to replace.

* Julius Caesar is at the Noel Coward Theatre in St Martin’s Lane, WC2, until September 15

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