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At university I did a whole module on Shakespeare but up until now, had never been to the theatre to see a proper Shakespeare play. Last night I got to change that though, by going to Norwich Theatre Royal to see Julius Caesar.
About the show
Julius Caesar. A divisive leader who holds awesome power.
Concerned that Caesar poses a threat to democracy, revolutionaries take the violent decision to murder him. They have no plan for what comes next. As the world spins out of control, chaos, horror and superstition rush in to fill the void. Civil war erupts and a new leader must rise: but at what cost?
The Royal Shakespeare Company returns to Norwich with a fast-paced political thriller, directed by Atri Banerjee. Atri was listed in The Stage 25 as one to watch in 2022 and previously won Best Director at The Stage Debut Awards in 2019. His fresh interpretation of Shakespeare’s timeless story forces us all to consider how far we would go for our political principles.
Did we like it?
The worry for me with Shakespeare, is being able to understand what is happening on stage. The language is very different from a ‘regular’ play and very unlike anything else I have ever seen. For the first few minutes of Julius Caesar, I’ll admit, I was a bit confused. However, it didn’t take long for me to get into it once it got going.
Something really important, is to make Shakespeare appeal to a wider audience. While some might want a more ‘traditional’ take on the Bard’s plays, others might want something a bit more modern. This is exactly what director Atri Banerjee has done. You’ll find the cast dressed in modern clothes, roles traditionally played by men and not, and the whole production has a modern feel to it.
Sadly, regarding the titular character, something was lacking. If you didn’t know anything about the story or the character beforehand, it would be hard to understand why anyone would want to kill him. He doesn’t come across as overly powerful and really, not even all that dislikable. People around him are plotting to kill him, but why?
Regardless, what I loved with the plotting. Cassius (Annabel Baldwin) plots a conspiracy to murder Caesar, enlisting the help other others including Brutus (Thalissa Teixeira). Between the characters, they go back and forth, with Cassius trying to convince everyone that they’re doing the right thing. Some are easier to persuade than others.
The death of Caesar is dramatic, as it should be. One by one, people get to take their shots at Caesar, leaving everyone bloody and in a mess. Black paint (or maybe oil) represents the blood spilt and is left that way for the duration of the play. It’s a bold reminder of what characters did, and that they must live with the consequences.
The whole cast is incredibly talented, bringing newness to a play so well-known. A stand out for me was Marc Antony, played by William Robinson. In the first half, you barely notice him. He stands in Caesar’s shadow. From the funeral scene though, his whole energy changes and conveys the anger and upset about what has been done perfectly. He gave me goosebumps.
With a run time of around 2 hours 40 minutes, Julius Caesar is a long play. The first half was incredibly long, and lasted for around an hour and a half. I wasn’t the only person who said it would have benefitted from an earlier interval. In comparison, the second half was much shorter.
Would I go and see another Shakespeare play after seeing Julius Caesar? Absolutely. I actually can’t wait to see more.