Julius Caesar arrives at the Bridge Theatre in London, re-imagined by Nicholas Lytner for a modern audience.
Hytner’s Julius Caesar is an attempt to show the parallels between the story and the current political environment. Caesar is obviously supposed to represent a demagogic, populist leader in the image of Donald Trump. And there are throughout the production subtle references to the America President. Of course this did slightly annoy me be characteristic of the lazy political analysis of most in the liberal arts professions. I did however manage to turn off my political judgement for one evening and get past this.
The play has a great cast including David Morrissey as Mark Anthony, Ben Wilshaw as Brutus and Michelle Fairley as a female version of Cassius. Notably the roman attires are missing with the characters portrayed in modern dress. And instead of Caesar being assassinated with daggers, the assailants all carry pistols. I found Wilshaw’s portrayal of an anxious and slightly naïve Brutus to be particularly strong. Wilshaw portrays Brutus exactly as he is imagined in the original text by Shakespeare as a confused man struggling to reconcile doing what he believes to be right with his duty as a friend.
My favourite part of the play was Mark Anthony’s speech at Caesars funeral. David Morrissey performs this to perfection. Rousing the crown into a fit of emotion and passion. Again I suppose this is meant to portray the success of what Hytner and his ilk would call the “populist” rhetoric of today. Personally I think it shows Mark Anthony as a much more masculine character then the weak and feeble Brutus. In the modern day masculinity is not much understood but here with the light shone firmly on it we see its power.
This was all in all good fun and showed off the Bridge Theatre’s impressive use of the stage as a prop. The audience are very much part of the play, waving flags, surrounding the main characters and being urged to engage in various chants throughout. The floor of the pit is raised and props transfigured at various points showing off the facilities of the theatre. Given that the theatre holds nine hundred the overall effect of all of this is to make the room feel much more intimate. Although I must say I am very glad I choose a nice seat on the balcony observing this being played out rather than being chaperoned around for the duration of the production.
Personally I do prefer my Shakespeare pure and unadulterated however I can say that there is something in this for everyone and overall it was an enjoyable evening. Coming in at around two hours I think does the story justice. The theatre is very impressive and well worth visiting.
(Main Image: Manuel Harlan)