Imperium Speaks Truth To Power At Gielgud Theatre

IMPERIUM, Gielgud Theatre ★★★★☆

By Matthew Holder Last edited 26 months ago

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Imperium Speaks Truth To Power At Gielgud Theatre IMPERIUM, Gielgud Theatre 4
Photo: Manuel Harlan

Those short years in the latter half of 1st century BC that saw strong-armed Caesars emerge from Rome’s shattered Republic remain a rich source for any epic drama interested in the operation of power and offering political lessons for today. So it proves for this energetic and rewarding dramatisation by Mike Poulton of Robert Harris’s trilogy of the life of Cicero.

Photo: Manuel Harlan

Over two parts and six hours we witness the rise and fall of this lawyer, Senator and Father of Rome, brilliantly played by Richard McCabe at his quicksilver best, staying one step ahead of all the rest who are busy kneeling to the demands of realpolitik.

Notwithstanding a hilariously drunk Mark Antony, Part two is darker as the cool and analytical Octavian step by step achieves control and eradication of all those in his way.

Photo: Manuel Harlan

It is said that Cicero was a celebrity among other celebrity lawyers. Hard to understand now, though the lawyer Gina Miller might make a recent claim, but a society so fragile, so riven with conflict and the spectre of violence, will of course place great hope and faith in those who can stitch it together. The kind of verbal needlework that Cicero excels in here is, in the absence of his own army, the source of his power and the entertaining heart of Imperium.

IMPERIUM I: Conspirator and II: Dictator, Gielgud Theatre, Shaftesbury Avenue, W1D 6AR. Tickets: £10 - £69.50, until 8 September 2018.

Last Updated 18 July 2018