Tickets and more information: https://bridgetheatre.co.uk/whats-on/julius-caesar/
Production photos by: Manuel Harlan
Having bought the tickets last April, it’s safe to say I was more than excited for the Bridge Theatre’s production of Julius Caesar. Finally, a play starring Ben Whishaw that I can advocate wholeheartedly. However, I was slightly apprehensive as the Bridge didn’t have a particularly great start with Young Marx, which received mixed reviews. These apprehensions disappeared completely when fifteen minutes after being in the auditorium, a live band appeared and started playing a rock version of Katy Perry’s Roar.
While it is one of Shakespeare’s popular works, it’s one that I haven’t seen or read prior to booking tickets. If this play is new to you, the show follows a group of conspirators who are plotting to overthrow the Roman politician, Julius Caesar. This group of people are made up of people who are part of the Roman government and are close to Caesar to those who are against what Caesar stands for. Nicholas Hytner’s production is undeniably timely, given who is sat in the White House. At the start of the show there are ushers roaming the promenade selling Caesar supporting t-shirts, badges and flags which were a nice touch. But I felt the bright Republican red caps were a bit too reminiscent of the Make America Great again caps, we get the point.
Although there are four high profile names on the advertising, this is very much an ensemble piece mixed with an array of theatre veterans and fresh faced actors at the start of their career. David Calder is charming as Caesar remaining inclusive of the audience members in the pit, treating his supporters with warmth. Mark Antony is played brilliantly by David Morrissey as Caesar’s right hand man and really comes into his own during the battle at the end. Ben Whishaw, Michelle Fairley and Adjoa Andoh as Brutus, Cassius and Casca command the stage and the scenes where they interact with each other are the strongest, making the play all the more thrilling. I particularly enjoyed many of the ensemble doubled as named characters in the play as well as joining in the mob. Stand outs for me were Kit Young who played guitar in the street band and ends the play with a strong presence as Octavius, Caesar’s heir and Leaphia Darko as Brutus’ anxious wife Portia.
What is completely unique about this production is the promenade aspect. There’s no real stage. Bunny Christie’s set design is made up of platforms which rise up and down while surrounding the pit audience. The stage management team get their own bow at the curtain call and it is so well deserved as they work around the audience and the actors and with minimal light, it is astounding. This just goes to show how under-appreciated stage management teams are in theatres all over the world. Without them, there’s no show. At one point David Morrissey and Kit Young arrive on a massive tank into the promenade and it was a thrilling addition to an already exciting climax.
Nicholas Hytner has assembled a fantastic cast for this exciting and thrilling new take on a political classic. With interactive direction, an impressive set design and having the actors in modern dress, this production could’ve been set in any century or place. And that’s what makes it so accessible to everyone, including those who are new to Shakespeare (e.g.; my mum. She bloody loved it). I highly recommend it.
Until next time,