Julius Caesar, CLF Art Cafe
It is Rome in 44BC, AND Cassius - sick of Julius Caesar’s ‘tyranny’ (and low opinion of him) - seeks to engage Brutus in a plot to kill the old despot and, in the process,“save Rome”.
Many people’s recollection of William Shakespeare’s play - whether from ‘O’ or ‘A’-level studies, or from that infamous ‘Carry On’ film - will be that it’s about Julius Caesar’s assassination at the hands of his closest allies.
Having seen this stripped-down Samuel Wood-directed update, I am reminded that Shakespeare used Caesar’s stabbing as a way to explore far more.
‘Julius Caesar’ is a play about a number of things: power, ambition, jealousy, loyalty,fear, hubris, bonding; what it most certainly isn’t, is a play about women.
The two females - despite their best attempts - are both helpless onlookers as their husbands falter; in order to gain some sort of influence they are forced to employ either their ‘womanly wiles’ (Brutus’ wife, ‘Portia’), or good old-fashioned visions of death and foreboding (Caesar’s wife, Calphurnia’).
Alas, neither Brutus nor Caesar heed their wives, and the die is cast (as many of the cast die).
It is Rome in 44BC, AND Cassius - sick of Julius Caesar’s ‘tyranny’ (and low opinion of him) - seeks to engage Brutus in a plot to kill the old despot and, in the process,“save Rome
The set is simple: raised, white wooden flooring.
The costuming is Asian-influenced and uniformly black (except for the white versions worn by Mr and Mrs Caesar). The sound and lighting are clean and unfussy, and work well to support the narrative flow.
The 11-strong cast not only play all of the principle characters, but - for the most part- stay seated at the back of the stage to both bear witness, and to depict the Roman crowd(s).
The performances vary in quality; certainly Vangelis Christodolou’s (‘Brutus’) gives a good impression of a man in moral crisis, while Adam Elms’ ‘Cassius’ seemed a little too histrionic at times.
Matthew Cowley (‘Marc Anthony’) - delivering the famous ‘dogs of war’ speech, certainly has a powerful vocal instrument - even if his physicality fails to match it.
Julius Caesar, CLF Art Cafe
Max Warrick’s ‘Lucius’ and Peter Rae’s camp ‘Casca’ were amusing, while both Charlotte Gascoyne and Kellie Jane Walters acquit themselves well in the two unforgiving female roles.
And then there was Caesar… Just as ‘Othello’ is arguably about Iago, this play is not about the title character - more about how the ’supporting’ characters revolve around him. That having been said, I found Matthew Eades’ ‘Caesar’ a little ‘one-note’. He certainly embodies a man of rich bearing and authority but, my… where is the charisma? The dazzling oratory? The wit?
This is a pleasant, no-frills production that works well as a first foray into Shakespeare - or as a reminder of school-days gone by. How ’no-frills’? Well, it’s 2 hours long, there’s no intermission, and the toilet’s not in the building(!) Just like Caesar, you have been warned.
Info: Julius Caesar is at the CLF Art Café until October 25, 2014 | Book tickets