Review: Julius Caesar at The Waterside Theatre, Aylesbury
PUBLISHED: 14:19 20 September 2012 | UPDATED: 21:54 20 February 2013
Stephen Bourke reviews the Royal Shakespeare Company's acclaimed production of Shakespeare's Julius Caesar
Julius Caesar at The Waterside Theatre, Aylesbury
Until September 22, 2012
By Stephen Bourke
This new production of the RSCs Julius Caesar is a brilliant adaptation of the story set in sub Saharan Africa. The opening scene is full of energy and colour with a wealth of African characters, convincing in appropriate dress as in modern day Africa. However, the stage setting could be almost any country that has been presided over by a dictator, from Stalin to Saddam.
Caesar is in triumphal mode after victory and having ensured the crowds are gathered he makes the most of the acclaim he receives, in the company of Brutus, Cassius and Antony. At one moment a soothsayer calls out to Caesar beware the Ides of March but he ignores such intrusion and carries on.
It is after this that Cassius and Brutus both decide Caesar has become too powerful and something must be done to stop him. Their motives do not appear to be for the good of the people and freedom and liberty but rather for their own personal gain.
Cyril Nri in the role of Cassius is very convincing as the ring leader behind the plot and ably manipulating Brutus, played by Paterson Joseph, to come round to his way of thinking. Caesar is brilliantly played by Jeffery Kissoon who comes across as a very believable and charismatic figure and I was disappointed he was stabbed to death so soon.
After the deed is done it is time for Brutus to address the populace and to convince them that Caesars death was in the best interests of Rome and their liberty. But in another section of the crowd, Antony, who was not one of the conspirators but had somehow convinced them he was with them, starts to put doubts in their minds and put forward a sympathetic version of Caesar and the good that he had done for the people. Again, a very convincing performance from Ray Fearon as Antony as he whips the crowd up into a frenzy.
At this point the crowd want his will read and when they hear Caesar has left money to every citizen, they become so incensed that this generous man had been killed that they drive Brutus and Cassius into exile.
Running through the whole play is a very agreeable musical score which has a spiritual element and keeps the momentum going as the play moves towards anti-climax. On the eve of the civil war Cassius and Brutus have a heated argument which is terrific oratory but just a tiny bit too heated and loud.
Although the ghost of Caesar was not that convincing it was one of the lighter moments that run through this play and make it so enjoyable.
Finally, Cassius, believing all is lost, asks to be killed with his own sword. Brutus on learning this and realising the battle is lost, falls on his own sword. Antony believes that alone among the conspirators only Brutus acted in what he thought was for the good of Rome, rather than for personal ambition, and orders a noble burial.
I think this adaptation brings such a new lease of life into this play that it will in future be difficult for me to see it in its original form. The play is very poignant in many of its aspects and given Africas and Europes past dictators, the messages are very relevant today.
- The show runs until Saturday September 22, 2012. For tickets call the box office on 0844 871 7607 or book online at www.atgtickets.com/aylesbury