REVIEW | JULIUS CAESAR AT BRIDGE THEATRE LONDON (@_bridgetheatre ‏)

jc

 

I love the name of hon­our, more than I fear death.

Ima­gine if in three years, Don­ald Trump refuses to end his term as pres­id­ent. Ima­gine instead, he gets the sen­ate to rat­i­fy an amend­ment to the declare him dic­tat­or for life. Ima­gine he rein­forces his power grab by bring­ing an über-loy­al pro­fes­sion­al army to Wash­ing­ton. Ima­gine he uses his army to defeat all those who try to oppose him openly. What would that do to the already fra­gile polit­ic­al sys­tem in Amer­ica?

That is not too dis­sim­il­ar to what Juli­us Caesar did when he bought his Legion­ary army to Rome. His infam­ous power grab broke the sac­red laws of demo­cracy and provided the final death blow to the fra­gile Roman repub­lic sys­tem.  His bold actions even­tu­ally led him to be murdered by the very sen­at­ors who gran­ted him his power.

This his­tor­ic­al tragedy is so pop­ular, that I lit­er­ally did a review on another Juli­us Caesar play a month ago. I have also come numer­ous across books, film, shows, and pod­casts all cov­er­ing this very sub­ject. This meant I was very famil­i­ar with the story and had high expect­a­tions from any inter­pret­a­tion of it.

The Bridge Theatre is the latest theatre com­pany to take on the clas­sic­al tale, but with a mod­ern twist. The play works like this; there are stand­ing and seated tick­ets. The stand­ing tick­ets are immers­ive, so you get to be up close to the action and even play the role of the ‘ple­bei­ans’ (the com­mon people; affec­tion­ately called the unwashed masses). The seated tick­ets sur­round the aud­it­or­i­um and are good for those cannot/do not want to stand for two hours.

If you are unsure if you want to sit or stand, it may help to think of the play more like a con­cert or a gig. Do you want to have a chance to have the per­formers inter­act with you; or do you prefer/need to be seated fur­ther away? If you sit, you may miss the chance for Juli­us Trump, er I mean Caesar, to shake your hand.

Julius Caesar production shots by Manuel Harlan

Juli­us Caesar pro­duc­tion shots by Manuel Har­lan

Although this play has been placed in a mod­ern set­ting, it remains faith­ful to the clas­sic­al Shakespearean script. The mod­ern­ity did feel a bit weird at times, like when Marc Ant­ony wore a Sop­ranos style gang­ster track­suit. How­ever, in oth­er ways, it worked mul­ti­tude times bet­ter; like the mod­ern bat­tle­field set and the recog­nis­able Trumpesque theme to Caesar.

Caesarean posters, flags and famil­i­ar red hats are also used through­out the play to really bring the power of Caesar’s mas­ter­ful pro­pa­ganda to life in a con­tem­por­ary man­ner. The audi­ence are even encour­aged to shout, clap and chant in the name of Caesar.

The cast is head­lined by Michelle Fair­ley, who is best known from her por­tray­al of Catelyn Stark; the woman who let Jam­ie Lan­nister free. She takes on the tra­di­tion­ally male role of Cas­si­us, one of the key driv­ing forces of the plot. She is cast along­side Ben Wishaw, who takes the leads as Bru­tus; the man charged lib­er­at­ing Rome from Caesar’s grasp.

The pro­duc­tion is sup­por­ted by a diverse group of act­ors, all vary­ing in age, sex and eth­nic back­ground. This is par­tic­u­larly refresh­ing, as Roman tales are still all too often por­trayed by old white men. The quar­tet of Abra­ham Popoola, Kit Young, Zachary Hart and Fred Fer­gus show­case their music­al tal­ents by provid­ing the live enter­tain­ment for the cel­eb­ra­tion of Case­rs tri­umph. Adjoa Andoh was not­ably enig­mat­ic in her sup­port­ing role of Cas­ca.

The pro­duc­tion design by Bun­nie Christie was fant­ast­ic and really helped enhance the exper­i­ence. The arena which the audi­ence stood along­side the act­ors was trans­formed sev­er­al times, from the ornate Sen­ate house to a dysto­pi­an bat­tle­field. A spe­cial shout out to the behind the scenes team for guid­ing the audi­ence on where to stand and keep­ing the pro­duc­tion mov­ing seam­lessly.

This play takes a bold attempt to mod­ern­ise an all-time clas­sic and does it very well. This ancient tale jux­ta­posed on the mod­ern polit­ic­al cli­mate res­on­ates with resound­ing rel­ev­ance.

The pro­duc­tion is run­ning until the 15th of April 2018. Tick­ets and more inform­a­tion about the show can be found here: https://bridgetheatre.co.uk/whats-on/julius-caesar

In all hon­esty, com­par­ing Trump to Caesar is an insult to both parties. Caesar has led his armies to com­mit mass gen­o­cide to tens of thou­sands of people, some­thing Trump is nowhere near guilty of. On the oth­er hand, Trump is nowhere near a bril­liant of a politi­cian as Caesar was. 

 

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Merz

Merz

Merz is No Bounds’ well-being lead. A long­time hip hop head with sev­er­al years exper­i­ence in men­tal health. He is also founder of a vegan Mac & Cheese food truck @lazyboykitchen .

About Merz

Merz
Merz is No Bounds' well-being lead. A longtime hip hop head with several years experience in mental health. He is also founder of a vegan Mac & Cheese food truck @lazyboykitchen .