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Tower Theatre Company

Julius Caesar

 

by William Shakespeare

 

Adapted and Directed by Penny Tuerk

 

St Leonard’s Church, Shoreditch

 

13 – 22 May 2010

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A review by Amy Smith for EXTRA! EXTRA!

The Tower Theatre Company present Julius Caesar, a play by William Shakespeare which studies passionate politics, seemingly relevant to any age.  Set in Rome during a dangerous era, Julius Caesar tells the story of Brutus, Caesar's close friend, and a Roman praetor who is seduced into joining a group of conspiring senators by suspicious Cassius.  The corrupt senators are convinced that Caesar intends to turn republican Rome into a monarchy under his own rule, therefore plotting his death which precipitates a bloody civil war that destroys them all.  A story of treachery, ambition, revenge and loyalty, it is thought that Shakespeare wrote the play originally to depict the current state of politics of the reign of Queen Elizabeth.

By the standards of other Shakespeare plays, Julius Caesar has a diverse and changing cast of characters- thirty seven named parts, of which only three make their way through the entire play.

Here, with a cast of fifteen, the company begin the performance rhythmically with a simple step pattern to a sluggish hollow drum beat- foot in sync with the dull pound of the percussion.  A surge of smoke fills the stage as the actors circle the space, continuing the simplistic footwork.

Set within the vast cavity of St. Leonard’s Church, Shoredtich, the political tragedy is performed at the altar- undoubtedly paying Shakespeare his dues in the most significant area of the church, adding spiritual tone to the drama. The back drop, an intricate stained glass window, allows sunlight to penetrate the colourful glaze, casting prismatic shadows around the threadbare building. Paint- work draping from dilapidated walls adds a distinct charm to the derelict architecture, and the bareness of the church itself adds a special quality to the simplicity of the entire production.

Those seated in the church pews, closest to the action of the play may almost feel as though they are part of the production itself.  Julius Caesar is executed all around the space- actors enter and speak from behind and beside the pews it’s as if the audience has actually been immersed into Ancient Rome which imbues a satisfying reality to the entire show.

The acoustics of the church space carry the powerful speeches delivered by Cassius and Mark Anthony with an eerie echo.  However, I would advise you to arrive early in order to steal a seat as close to the action as possible, as possible as a great deal of sound is lost the further back to the church you sit. Moving into the second half of the performance, the church darkens as night falls; it’s almost as if Caesar’s death brings darkness to the entire space, encompassing the audience into a shady world full of treachery and revenge. 

There are compelling performances from both Brutus - Ed Malcolmson and Cassius - Laurence Ward, who speak Shakespearean verse with so much naturalism that even a Shakespeare virgin could comprehend the complex text. 

The simple costumes are honest, laying the actors bare with no extravagant fabric to disguise them.  Without exorbitance, the performers are unadorned with decoration, leaving them with what they do best, good old-fashioned acting.

 

 

 

 

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