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Review: RSC's Julius Caesar brings it up to date
SETTING Julius Caesar in Africa made the Royal Shakespeare Company's production of the play seem so relevant to today's society and really touched a nerve with me when I watched it at The Aylesbury Waterside Theatre last night.
The production has been playing in Stratford Upon Avon and In London's West End and Aylesbury is part of a short UK tour.
The RSC Chief Associate Director Gregory Doran chose to set the political thriller in Africa. With the recent overthrow of dictators during the Arab Spring the play written by Shakespeare all those years ago seems in tune with today.
Julius Caesar, played by Jeffery Kissoon, returns to Rome after a great victory against Pompey the Great. But some of the senators start to resent him, worrying that too much power lies with one man.
Caius Cassius, played by Cyril Nri, plots to kill him and enlists the help of the respected Marcus Brutus, played by Paterson Joseph. Along with other conspirators they stab him to death, but Brutus says that Caesar's close friend, Mark Antony, played by Ray Fearon, should be spared.
This leads to his downfall as Antony persuades the people of Rome to turn against the conspirators.
There was a really dark feel to the play as it explored what happens when one ruler falls, who will take their place and will they go down the same route as the one before.
But there are also plenty of funny moments. The cast were all brilliant actors, especially Paterson Joseph, Ray Fearon and Cyril Nri who played their parts with such passion. I was completely caught up in Fearon's speech as Mark Antony to the crowds as Caesar's funeral. They were all so believable.
The set and African music added to the atmosphere and took the audience to Africa.
I read in the programme a piece by Richard Dowden who said that an African friend once told him he would have a better rapport with Shakespeare than Richard would.
His point was that they could talk about sacred groves and the power of spirits and they could both understand the horrors of anarchy.
This seems very relevant to the play set in Africa. The presence of a soothsayer does not seem out of place for example and does not make the play outdated.
As you would expect from the Royal Shakespeare Company this is a highly professional, intense performance of Julius Caesar from an incredible cast. A must see.
Julius Caesar is at The Aylesbury Waterside Theatre until Saturday, September 22 at 7.30pm each evening and a matinee performance on Saturday at 2.30pm. Tickets range from £10-£26 from 0844 8717607 or go to www.atgtickets.com/aylesbury
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