Julius Caesar – The Courtyard

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Spada Productions version of Shakespeare’s political epic is bold and visceral but unfortunately flawed.

As well as directing the show William Vercelli leads the cast as the titular Caesar through a faltering, indulgent reworking of the play set in a seemingly post-apocalyptic wasteland.

No-one can doubt the commitment of the actors – they give it everything, and the boldness of the concept – it’s always interesting to see familiar phrases given a new emphasis or taken (as in some cases in this production) very literally, but a lack of basic technique lets the company down. A number of the cast seem to struggle to get their mouths around the language, failing to fully understand the meaning behind Shakespeare’s words and too much of the play is lost into heavy breathing, posturing or shouting. The pauses seem interminable throughout and the production fails to find any momentum and never manages to honour the rhythm of the bard’s poetry. The indulgence into the death speeches of characters we only met one scene ago seems entirely unnecessary and bogs down the ending.

Matt Daniels as Brutus makes a decent go of it, speaking the text with confidence and authority. His scenes with Mitch Howell’s snake like Cassius are some of the most promising in the play but both performers and characters are hindered by the added love story sub-plot and neither character can fully develop in the way they need to to advance the story telling.

Kerry Fitzgerald as Mark Anthony offers some of the strongest work on display, her tribute to the late Caesar is genuinely touching yet her effective rabble rousing is ultimately for nought as the drive of the production again falls flat thanks to the clunky direction.

Tom Isted catches the eye with his effective multi-rolling as Lucius and Cinna, he looks at home on the stage, fills the space with his voice and speaks with clarity and truth.

Brendee Green’s Portia is a welcome antidote to the posturing men and though she could do to find a bit more variety and fire within her performance, there is an emotional truth that so many of the performances lack. She handles with aplomb the ghastly insertion of an improvised coat hanger abortion but as moving and as brave as this scene is, it adds nothing to the play, especially as husband Brutus is just about to jump in bed with Cassius anyway.

You have to admire Spada Productions for their risk taking approach but unfortunately on this occasion the result is lacking.

★★

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