Search This Blog

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

The RSC's Julius Caesar at The Roundhouse

The last time I was at The Roundhouse, I was singing my heart out in my childhood choir; I was only 14 or 15 years old. I can recall the damp and musty atmosphere of the great circular space, as we all stood in formation ready to sing. That was a long time ago and the hall has been transformed since becoming the London home of the Royal Shakespeare Company for the current ten week season. On the press night of Julius Caesar the place was full of vitality, an audience of great theatre lovers all milling about intrigued by the latest Shakespearean offering. I was directed to brilliant stalls seats and immediately felt a sense of involvement in the drama. Elevated aisles run through the audience and other nearby passageways suggested more routes for the actors to use. I noticed gaps left open on the balconies too, ready for action.

Lucy Bailey directs this explosive new production of Julius Caesar, a tale of politics and passion. The play certainly thrilled the audience, who seemed to relish in the gore. Fake blood is used in abundance, so much so that some of the audience members around me seemed to get splattered in the stuff, that’s the punishment you get for being able to afford the pricier, stalls seats I suppose. Full on violence is introduced from the start - Romulus and Remus are engaged in an aggressively physical fight to the death. Bailey certainly doesn’t shy away from this bold element of the text, it's similar in style to her production of Macbeth at the Globe.

I am sure the use of film and video will cause a stir with some critics. Large rectangular blocks are used to show projected moving film, the vision of designer Bill Dudley (Bailey’s partner). The more frantic crowd sequences are, at times distracting, but on the whole the concept is highly stimulating and gives the stage an added depth and excitement. Julius Caesar is a difficult play to stage, but this production uses the challenges to its advantage.

There is real concentration from the male strong cast, some of their angry faces look possessed at times, and with my seats being close to the aisle I could feel their wrath as they ran past terrifyingly close. Sam Troughton is less animalistic than his fellow conspirators, and has a thoughtful glint in his eye. He commands attention on stage, but more as a philosopher than fighter. John Mackay towers above him in height, but is less impressive as conniving Cassius, and I found him eventually quite irritating to watch. Darrell D’Silva is brilliant as Mark Antony, strong in stature and voice. Greg Hicks is unusually restrained as Caesar, his expression is sometimes awkward but is enjoyable to watch nonetheless. The poor man deals very well with being bludgeoned to death, in a rather complex fight scene!

The play itself is not one of my favourite Shakespeares, with the protagonist dead by the interval there is little to look forward to in the second half. However with Bailey’s powerful vision, this Julius Caesar becomes quite enthralling.

Julius Caesar continues until 5 February 2011, book tickets here.

No comments:

Post a Comment