Julius Caesar review – the revolution is rerouted in scattered Shakespeare | Theatre


The Globe’s audience serve as the easily swayed mob in Diane Page’s production of Shakespeare’s story of stolen power. A willing crowd, we’ll repeat whatever is chanted to us, happy to swap sides if we feel it will please the performers. The effect of this is funny, but never frightening. The cast of eight unravel this world of ancient Rome with gusto, but it hardly feels like the future of the republic depends on these decisions, or as if the person in charge could make or break the country. To the audience, it just feels like a bit of a laugh.

In this modern-dress production, with clean pale suits begging for blood splatters, the well-spoken battle for power rarely broadens out beyond the characters’ concerns with their own morality. Without a sense of genuine peril, their final fights seem flimsy, and their ultimate actions often selfish. The brief encounters between Caesar (Dickon Tyrrell) and those who rise up against him are sped through, making it difficult to comprehend the strength of their relationships, and the impact of their conspiracy.

Fighting for freedom, Brutus and Cassius are played both by and as women. Charlotte Bate is our determined, manipulative Cassius, her confident swagger later dissolving as the luck of the civil war changes sides. Anna Crichlow is noble to a fault as Brutus, her utter belief in her plan almost making her naive, particularly in the face of Mark Antony’s controlled passion in front of the crowd. If this is a commentary on women in power, it has little obvious effect other than a change in pronouns, but both performers hold the stage as they grapple with their own intentions.

After a topless start that paints Mark Antony as being on a perpetual stag do, Samuel Oatley cements his character in a powerful performance at Caesar’s funeral, ruffling the public’s spirits to mutiny. But rather than feeling the electric danger of an angry, unruled country, the larger scenes often seem loose and scattered. It lacks a tautness. At the start of the show, a marble statue of Caesar stands grandly in the centre of the action, felled at the same time as its likeness’s flesh is stabbed. Once the statue is carried off stage, it’s unclear who or what marks the central force of this unintimidating production.

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