27 October 2018
Julius Caesar is not merely a tale of one political transition where the attempt to resolve upheaval serves as the cataclysm to cause the very outcome Caesar’s assassinators tried to prevent. Shakespeare’s closest and most overt equivalent to a political thriller is a timeless story that has never not been relevant to contemporary politics.
Bell Shakespeare’s novel take on the Bard’s tale it is an interesting one: The non-traditional, diverse gender and race blind casting with Kenneth Ransom as Caesar, Brutus portrayed by James Lugton and Ghenoa Gela’s energetic performance as Casca prove to be the strongpoints of the production, with the delivery of the other cast at times lacking the conviction that the rhetoric of Shakespeare’s powerful rhetoric would demand.
The minimalist and industrial set design is versatile, choreographed and serves as a veritable stage that keeps things flowing, specifically when speeches are set in scene, and the nature of the smart-casual costumes is not too dissimilar with the score being the diametric opposite with its thunderous bombast, overamplifying scenes that are already boosting with suspense as the battles, treasonous plots, infighting and political battles unfold.
Bell Shakespeare’s stylised approach is refreshing yet it seems to be caught in between the traditional and therefore lack dramatic depth. The next level, i.e. taking it a step further with a truly edgy interpretation would have added another dimension.
However, it was certainly one of the more accessible interpretations of a Shakespeare play I have recently seen, which is achieved through deliberately stripping back the production to its essentials and conveying the omnipresent effects that fear has once it seeps into the DNA of society.
A contemporary and at times dystopian take on a classic that adds new facets to its relevance.