Arts Reviews

“Creative, Experimental and Moments of Brilliancy”- Theatre Review: Julius Caesar @ Theatre Royal Nottingham

Ana Balanici and Amy Child

The Royal Shakespeare Company’s production of Julius Caesar comes to the Theatre Royal Nottingham between Tuesday 23rd and Saturday 27th of May. Concerned by the great power that Caesar has over the republic, revolutionaries take the violent decision to murder him in this Shakespearean political thriller and tragedy. Impact’s Ana Balanici and Amy Child review.

We want to start this review by saying that this is the first time either of us has ever encountered this play and we’re not familiar to the script, so some of the issues we will raise are less to do with the performance itself and more to do with the play (sorry Shakespeare).

The play felt a bit cut down and rushed, which meant that the motivations of the characters and the stakes of their actions were a little blurry. The first part focuses on the revolutionaries’ decision to murder Caesar, particularly Cassius (Annabel Baldwin) convincing Brutus (Thalissa Teixeira) to join the revolution. This half felt somewhat long, yet somehow didn’t wholly flesh out the intentions of the characters and their relationships with each other. Maybe it was partially due to the fact that we knew how this story would end, but there didn’t appear to be too much hesitation on any of the revolutionaries’ parts to what they were about to do, which didn’t quite create a natural procession towards the climax of Caesar’s death.

vivid black and white projections helped establish an ominous and tense tone

That is not to say that the climax wasn’t strong, we will get to that in a bit, but that the narrative felt somewhat patchy at times. The second part was even shorter and although we understood what was happening, we were a bit uncertain on why it was happening. With such a large cast of characters, it felt like Shakespeare didn’t give each of them the depth that we would be used to in a Shakespearean tragedy.

However, all of that being said, it doesn’t mean that this avant-garde production wasn’t enjoyable. We found it creative, experimental and it had its moments of brilliancy. The set was minimalistic and bare, only including a revolving stage which either acted as part of the set as a room or was used as a backdrop for projections of videos or was utilised towards the end in a more symbolical manner as the afterlife.

The vivid black and white projections helped establish an ominous and tense tone, especially during the opening scene, which was constructed of the cast performing a violent, distorted, and ritualistic dance. The projections and the music worked so well together to add to the atmosphere created during the show, and during the second half its use as the afterlife made for some powerful and memorable images.

the way in which the climax of Caesar’s death was staged was striking

We really enjoyed the moment during the fight between Brutus and Octavius (Ella Dacres), which was executed in an interesting blend of dance and physical theatre, centre stage while in the background the revolving stage paralleled their fight with Caesar (Nigel Barrett) and his wife Calpurnia (Jimena Larraguivel) dancing.

In terms of direction, the way in which the climax of Caesar’s death was staged was striking. Black paint was used as the blood which was a brilliant idea and created such a powerful image with it being smeared all over him and the murderers. The further symbolism of the stained clothes of the revolutionaries even after the interval really illustrated how they were stained by their actions and how they had to live with the consequences of their actions.

Although we found some of the artistic choices really effective, we sometimes also found it a little distracting. For example, while the dancing was effective in setting the tone throughout the production, its supernatural edge perhaps wasn’t fitting as neatly with the themes of the play, which were very grounded in real political scheming and the world of man. Similarly, the projections on the backdrop really added to the atmosphere in certain parts, but in others it was too distracting, for example during Mark Antony’s funeral speech, as it felt like the actor was fighting for the attention of the audience with the overwhelming images in the background.

All the cast displayed an amazing energy, but we couldn’t finish this review without applauding Thalissa Teixeira and William Robinson (Mark Antony) for a fantastic performance. Displaying spectacular emotion and captivating the audience in their scenes, the two shone in this production. After the second half, Teixeira displayed Brutus’s guilt and grief in such a subtle yet remarkable way. The scene of her death, with the silence broken by her scream as she was finally killed, was heart-breaking. Robinson’s portrayal of Mark Antony’s grief and rage was so realistic and his interactions with the audience at Caesar’s funeral, while he was holding his bloodied shirt, was Amy’s personal favourite.

Shakespeare has been performed for centuries now, but the RSC still proves that it can remain relevant and new creative interpretations can still be made through this production.

Ana Balanici and Amy Child

Featured image courtesy of Alex Watkin. Permission to use granted to Impact. No changes were made to this image.

In-article image courtesy of Royal Shakespeare Company. Permission to use granted to Impact. No changes were made to this image.

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