A little similar to the man himself, Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar is a hard play to love. Overall, there is much speechifying, little action and less levity. The few female characters are portrayed as weak, superstitious or nags. The first half is a prolix morass and, though the RSC’s adaptation adds a decent amount of son et lumière to jolly things along, it is not until Greg Hicks’ superb Caesar appears that the story has liftoff.
Having said that, there is much to like. The first half begins well with a bout of no-holds-barred wrestling that Giant Haystacks would be proud of. Sam Troughton is a fine actor who, while not old enough to convince as Brutus, forms a formidable emotional partnership in tandem with John Mackay’s Cassius. This Roman bromance is the axis about which the play revolves but the star turns for us were Oliver Ryan whose seething and wild-eyed Casca stole every scene he spoke in and Darrell d’Silva’s Mark Anthony; his character’s funeral speech was the highlight of the evening, a barnstorming call to arms brimming with grief and anger.
Given the events of the last year, Julius Caesar‘s two-millenium-old tale with its political themes of assassination (in Pakistan and the US), an expedient coalition and mutiny in Rome still ring true (we’re even fearing the Ides of March). In contrast, Troughton’s father can be currently seen at the National Theatre in a play which is only thirty years old but has aged badly. Amid the verbiage, Julius Caesar has much to say about human relationships and leadership and this adaptation is both relevant and recommended.
The play lasts 2 hours 45 minutes including one interval of 20 minutes and will be in repertoire until 5 February 2011. Tickets are £8-40. It is part of a season of RSC productions at the Roundhouse. More information on on this and other productions in this season can be found here.
Our American readers may be interested to know that most of the season currently at the Roundhouse will be transferring as part of the Lincoln center festival in NYC this July (more info from www.lincolncenterfestival.org).