Julius Caesar

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Julius Caesar

Julius Caesar

Posted: 04 Nov 2009

Julius Caesar
Newcastle Theatre Royal
Royal Shakespeare Company

The tone was set at the start with a stark scene of the barely-clad twins Romulus and Remus fighting to the death on a hillside.

This would be a down-and-dirty Julius Caesar mired in the violence of ancient Rome rather than a showcase for archetypal Shakespearean actors declaiming from the colonnades.

The last time I saw the play on stage was five years ago with Ralph Fiennes taking the part of Mark Antony.

His was a nuanced, understated performance which implied deep-running but seldom overt feelings behind a true tactician’s brain.

Darrell D’Silva’s Antony in the Royal Shakespeare Company’s run at the Theatre Royal in Newcastle was a different kind of beast.

With passions on the surface, his voice cracked with emotion and fury as he delivered the ‘friends, Romans and countrymen’ speech.

More Andy McNab than Peter Mandelson, his sarcasm about Brutus was as heavy and as subtle as a sledgehammer. Here was a blood-and-guts soldier, much earthier than the manoeuvring politicians who surrounded him and someone the masses could identify with.

At the start he blundered around, belching and throwing up behind the scenery. But he rose majestically to the occasion after the assassination. He even looked the part – a stocky fighter of the what-you-see-is-what-you-get sort rather than the ‘lean and hungry’ likes of Cassius of whom Caesar was rightly suspicious.

The crowd scenes were particularly effective, with video of seething mobs in the background, swaying from outpourings of love for Caesar to approval of his murder and back again.

Meanwhile Greg Hicks as Caesar showed his fine theatrical range, being vulnerable and vacillating at times, commanding and charismatic at others – someone you could imagine inspiring conflicting emotions in the likes of Sam Troughton’s Brutus.

But subtlety wasn’t the keynote of this production: the director Lucy Bailey describes the play as a political thriller and her direction was inspired by the brutal TV series Rome. A Julius Caesar for the Die Hard generation, then.

Anne Graham

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