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A review by Vanessa Bunn for EXTRA! EXTRA!

 

 

 

Shakespeare’s Globe presents

Julius Caesar

George Irving as Julius Caesar in Dominic Dromgoole's 2014 production of Julius Caesar at Shakespeare's Globe
Photo by Manuel Harlan

by William Shakespeare

Directed by Dominic Dromgoole

Composed by Clare Van Kampen

Designed by Jonathan Fensom

 

Shakespeare’s Globe

 

20 June – 11 Oct 2014

 

 

Before the play begins a riotous atmosphere is swept up in the foyer and surrounding areas at the Globe by a range of boisterous, revelling Romans. This is an appealing touch by director Dominic Dromgoole and, I think, an important one.  Julius Caesar does not send one into anticipatory fever as some other plays from the bard’s canon might. Stirring the crowd with dramatic appetisers makes for an enlivened audience which is essential in a play centred on lively oratory and shocking violence. In Elizabethan costume and amongst Roman trimmings like gilded marble pillars and richly trimmed robes, a lively cast make full use of the vast Globe stage. They also wander amongst the groundlings, further enhancing the notion of audience participation which in turn lends force to the more riotous crowd scenes later.

Julius Caesar is interestingly cast in George Irving. Smooth and charismatic, he breezes through the early scenes before his demise, wearing furs and crimson cloaks. While he certainly possesses the stature and gait of a proud, power-hungry ruler, his tender exchanges with his wife and generally easy-going approach make it difficult to understand how he could be considered quite such a tyrannous threat by Brutus (Tom Mc Kay), Cassius (Anthony Howell) and their band of fellow-conspirators. Alas, his increasing popularity and concealed ambitions have sealed his fate and the scene in which he is murdered is one of the most arresting of the night.

Following their removal of Caesar, Brutus and Cassius cannot agree on the potential threat posed by his close friend Mark Antony (Luke Thompson). Brutus, in his frustrating well-meant reserve, refuses to bend to Cassius’ suggestion that they dispose of Mark Antony, the first of his numerous misguided decisions. Instead, his insistence that Mark Antony speak after him at Caesar’s funeral, full sure that his own speech will not be matched, gives the grieving friend the chance he needs to raise rebellion. Luke Thompson is captivating here as he coyly manipulates the inconstant crowd into adoration of the deceased Caesar to the point of comedy.

 

 

Luke Thompson as Mark Antony in Dominic Dromgoole's 2014 production of Julius Caesar at Shakespeare's Globe
Photo by Manuel Harlan

 

 

There are some hearty performances and the cast is consistently strong. Katy Stephens makes a flawless leap from her role as staid and cautious Calpurnia to a rabblerousing citizen. As Caesars’ wife she is unnerved by a foreboding dream and attempts to keep him at home out of danger on the day of his demise. As hot-headed citizen she is often a mouthpiece for the entire crowd. In citizen costume she also ring-leads the angry mob who violently kill Cinna the poet (William Mannering) after mistaking him for Cinna the conspirator (Patrick Driver).

 

 

Katy Stephens as Calpurnia in Dominic Droomgoole's 2014 production of Julius Caesar at Shakespeare's Globe

Photo by Manuel Harlan

 

 

Music by Claire van Kampen is particularly striking in parts, partially thanks to the use of some atypical instruments like shawms and a sackbut. A chorus of three hooded women who sing-in each of the many deaths with intense melancholic harmonies are mesmeric. In usual resourceful fashion, when extra noise is required the stage is stamped on, boxes struck and clapping encouraged. The crowd-noise effect has been arranged to perfection and the positioning of the actors amongst the groundlings in scenes of high drama increases their effect tenfold.

The rich supernatural elements of the play, the significance of dreams and the haunting presence of the soothsayer (Tom Kanji), insistent on warning Caesar of his impending betrayal, and later the ghost of Caesar, are strongly rendered in this production. The role of the weather is also illuminated with ominous drumming and widespread, realistic awe amongst the characters. The less eventful second half of the play remains engaging through the brotherly bond created between Brutus and Cassius, as alike in appearance as they are opposed in the formation of good ideas. These central roles are developed exceptionally well in this production and Cassius’ lack of self-confidence is rendered as well as Brutus’ tendency toward wallowing, arguably their individual tragic flaws.

In a production which plays to the strengths of Julius Caesar as an engaging and potentially comic piece, Dromgoole has directed a set of performances which engage a rapt audience in the singularly special surroundings of the Globe. Sam Cox, a consistent jewel in the Globe’s crown, epitomises this vision with a set of comic performances which touch the audience in ways unrivalled by any of the violence or effects. 

 

Tom McKay as Brutus and Anthony Howell as Cassius in Dominic Dromgoole's 2014 production of Julius Caesar at Shakespeare's Globe
Photo by Manuel Harlan
 

 

 

Tickets: £5 standing / £15-£42 seats
Box Office: 020 7401 9919
Shakespeare’s Globe
21 New Globe Walk, Bankside, London SE1 9DT
http://www.shakespearesglobe.com/
 
 

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