Cast and Crew
Julius Caesar David Kirkbride Mark Antony Thomas Reynolds Octavius Caesar Rick Hutchinson Marcus Brutus Robert Icke Caius Cassius Andrew Berriman Caius Trebonius Natasha Hamer Casca/Lucilius Daniel Hill Decius Brutus/Lepidus Steven Gregson Cinna Martin Holmes Metellus Cimber Michael Cox Calpurnia Fiona Sibbald Portia Ellie Nicholson Cicero Tom Metcalfe Popilius Lena Daniel Rees Lucius John Kirkbride Soothsayer Greg Husband Plebeian 1 Helen Gajdus Plebeian 2 Mel Powell Plebeian 3 Sarah Butler
Directors Robert Icke
Assistant Directors Daniel Hill
Percussion Richard Ferry Lighting Designer Matthew Case
30th October 2003
A BUNCH of ordinary, non-privileged 13 to 17-year-olds have – entirely without help – produced Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar at a prestigious theatre. What means the Northern Echo is absolutely guaranteed to give the plucky kids a rave review, right?
Well, maybe. But the fact remains, that if you go to Arc tonight, you’ll see an entertaining, well produced, dramatic version of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar.
It’s not good ‘for kids’, it’s not a ‘good effort under the circumstances’. It’s just good.
A strong point is the direction and stagecraft. There’s the eerie moment when the light fades out around Caesar’s erect corpse, the subtle rise in music volume as violence reaches a crescendo, the drama when the cast come alongside the audience, and we all become part of an angry mob. The famous scenes including the ‘et tu Brute’ attack on Caesar or the ghost appearing to Brutus on the eve of battle are well done and not overblown. The acting is good all round but special mention should be made of Robert Icke and Andrew Berriman who play Brutus and Cassius, as well as directing the play.
If there are any schoolboys crawling reluctantly, to school, and whinging that Shakespeare is boring, come and see your contemporaries.
WHEN you hear that ‘Julius Caesar’ is being played by teenagers it is tempting to think it will lose weight as a play because of the lack of ‘life experience’ but as soon as the actors begin this idea is quickly dispelled. Even the youth of Mark Antony, possibly the most difficult feature of the production, serves to shed new light on an over-familiar character: the vulnerability of his position and recklessness of his challenge to the conspirators. In the funeral oration the physical frailty of the actor forces the audience to focus on the power of the words which sway the mob.
This is a production in which the words are given primary place. From the start the minimalist set and costumes act as a kind of blackboard on which the text is written. In fact most of the production is in black and white and an ominous darkness that is only relieved by the clinical brightness and brilliant imperial colours of Caesar. Visually it seems as if day is struggling with night and losing since even the light there is feels unnatural. This underlines the nightmare which Brutus particularly inhabits. By enabling the audience to concentrate on the text the production reveals more about the play and characters than if it was cluttered by props and stage ‘business’. Cuts in the text, such as the dropping of the opening scene, assist this.
Saying the emphasis is on the words is not to say the production lacks passion or physicality. It has both in good measure. The violence of death is particularly well enacted-Caesar, Cinna the Poet, Cassius, Brutus.There is an economy in the acting that allows the action to speak for itself in all its horror. The spare nature of the costumes also works to emphasise the physicality of the characters, their reality as individual human beings, since heads and hands stand out far more against a plain ground. Each gesture and expression becomes magnified which, although there is sometimes too much gesturing, enables small details of personality to become evident. This is particularly seen in Cassius’s reaction to Caesar’s remarks to Antony in Act 1 scene ii. Causing Caesar to speak deliberately loud enough for Cassius to hear him here and showing Cassius’s seething make real the antagonism between them which is an important part of the plot.
Cassius is played as a moody and passionate character with a temperament shifting between choleric and melancholic. His calculating side is played down and he consequently becomes a more sympathetic character. This comes across especially well in Act4 scene iii, the best scene in the production. The argument between Brutus and Cassius is brilliantly done. It is heartfelt and totally believable. The relationship probably worked best at the preview performance when Brutus was played as less passionate (than on the Thursday night) and so contrasted more with the emotional Cassius. In this performance Brutus’s outburst against the Poet comes as a shock and merits Cassius’s ‘I did not think you could have been so angry’. Brutus’ tragedy is poignantly underlined by the imaginative use of dead Portia to sing the song in Act IV, Scene III. The beauty of the song as sung by her emphasises what Brutus has lost. It is a momentary flame of brightness in a very dark place.
One of the most memorable moments in this production is the funeral of Caesar. Having members of the cast around the audience screaming at the orators means the audience become part of the mob – a scary and powerful experience.
This is a really well thought-out rendering of ‘Julius Caesar’ with a lot of strong performances. Particularly noteworthy are the comic timing of Daniel Hill as Casca, the passionate portrayal of Cassius by Andrew Berriman, and the agony of Brutus depicted by Robert Icke.