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.
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.