REVIEW: JULIUS CAESAR (Bridge Theatre) ★★★★★

The arrival of Nicholas Hytner’s interpretation of Shakespeare’s ‘Julius Caesar’ has been highly anticipated. The classic historical tale of autocracy, treachery and mutiny is no easy challenge, particularly with the news that it was a promenade staging with audience involvement throughout, however it is one that is faced head on and smashed into a million tiny shards.

I entered the glorious space greeted by what initially seemed to be a rock concert. This gradually became more akin to a crass political rally, with embellished posters stating the tagline of Caesars campaign “Do this!”. Caps, flags and hot nuts being sold in the corner as well as a constant rotation of shopping trolley’s selling drinks involved every member of the audience. The stuffy feeling of a Shakespeare play was gone instantly ushering in and embracing what felt like a very different audience for such a piece.

Bunny Christie’s vast set design was as perplexing as it was beautiful, with platforms rising and sinking to and from the very ground upon which we as an audience stood. Every actor was within sniffing distance at one point or another and there was not a moment in which I felt there was little to feast my eyes upon.

The large cast were powerful, honest and brutally flawed. From ‘The Walking Dead’s’ David Morrissey in the role of ‘Marc Antony’ to theatrical royalty and 007 star Ben Wishaw as ‘Marcus Brutus’ every character was vividly real, utilising every device and clue in the Bard’s text, which (once teamed with Hytner’s direction) creates utter magic. I must afford particular mention to Adjoa Andoh who was as hilarious as she was cutting as the sharp tongued ‘Casca’.

What is remarkable about this production is its ability to leave its audience wondering who to root for. Hytner’s ability to capture the essence of a crowd mentality and the fickleness of a people on the brink of societal collapse is as impressive as it is terrifyingly relevant.

This is a true reworking of the piece, made for a new generation of Shakespeare converts. Daring, perceptive and sobering.

Reviewed by Jimmy Richards


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