Alexandra Warren reviews Gregory Doran’s take on the Shakespearean classic Julius Caesar.
Gregory Doran’s production of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar translates the play effectively from ancient Rome to modern Africa whilst losing none of its power. An all-black cast, traditional music and costumes lends a fresh urgency to the fear of tyranny from a continent that has been home to so many. The exposure of instability and pettiness of politics is also heightened by both Caesar and the conspirators.
A sinister shadow is cast over the returning hero in the opening scene by the presence of propaganda-like posters. Jeffrey Kissoon’s Caesar also gives subtle nods to more recent dictators, dressed in an Idi Amin style safari suit and displaying a touch of Stalinesque paranoia in the scene where he debates going to the senate, pacing up and down the stage.
Although in most productions portrayed as the noble idealist among jealous and petty politicians, Brutus too is flawed. Paterson Joseph plays him as self-righteous rather than morally superior which leads him to a tactical blunder – his ‘gallant’ sparing of Mark Antony leads to his ultimate downfall.
The conspirators as always display a level of pettiness and squabbling of power-grabbing politicians and the often likeable Antony is here arrogant and sly. The famous ‘Friends, Romans, countrymen’ speech is delivered strongly in front of a changeable crowd, almost parodying the fickleness of public opinion.
Doran’s production has brought the discussion of the ethics of political murder into the foreground by dusting the cobwebs off the play, and giving it a well carried off boost.