Monthly Archives: January 2018

Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare

Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare

at The Bridge Theatre

26th, January 2018

“As I love the name of honour more than I fear death.”

I fondly remember an all-black version by the RSC in 2012 but wow, was I pumped up as we entered the Bridge Theatre auditorium.  The charged rendition of “ Rock ‘n’ Roll Star” by Oasis, Survivor’s “ Eye of The Tiger “, during which,  David Morrissey appears in character with ‘Mark Antony’ emblazoned on the back of a sports robe, to egg on the crowd was electric; and more still with the “Seven Nation Army” by the White Stripes! I wasn’t sure whether I was in the wrong venue, but this is orchestrated mob rallying. It is a soundscape springboard through tyranny, conspiracy and tragedy.  It is a reminder that we are the populace who reside amidst the unchanging nature of politics.

In demonstration of the new theatre’s versatility, the theatre has been reconfigured in-the-round with the action playing out on a central platform as well as in the surrounding pit. Promenade tickets are available for those who want to get up close to the action.  Though seated in the front row of the auditorium, we were still complicit in the events.

As you may have guessed, Hytner’s production is reimagined for the era of post-truth populism; it’s in modern dress, and the parallels with certain current world leaders are evident. But there’s no fiasco as there was earlier last year,  when a New York production of ‘Julius Caesar’ got into trouble for depicting Caesar as Trump, assassinated by women and people of colour. We do have Caesar’s minions selling T-shirts emblazoned with “CAESAR” instead of “Make America Great Again,” also pin badges before the show, and the man himself sporting a red baseball cap bearing his own name. These are not gimmicks but a very real precursor to our perspective on the nature of power.

David Calder’s narcissistic Caesar emerges red tied and casual in golf clothes, as the band revs up the crowd climactically with Twisted Sister’s “We’re Not Gonna Take It”.  At times he displays insouciant charm; at others he is s given to impulsive decisions, an almost childish tyranny.  His surrounding security staff are reminiscent of Mussolini’s Blackshirts, shouting and pushing the stand-up audience back and forth to make way for the platforms that ascend from, and disappear into, the floor. “The Groundlings” are used as the crowd/mob and manoeuvred/manipulated round staging platforms that rise and fall in the acting/audience space. Not sure what happens if you don’t have a biddable audience. The more so when the Bard’s words slip as one actor shouts: “Pompeii is dead, Get over it!” Continue reading Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare

Cell Mates by Simon Gray

Cell Mates by Simon Gray at The Hampstead Theatre

20th January, 2018

“Spies betray people. That’s what we do. It becomes a…. a habit. Difficult to break …even when its not … not strictly necessary”.

This may be my shortest review, yet. Simon Gray’s  “Cell Mates” is  famously known for the original 1995 production of Simon Gray’s play which was deemed a flop after Stephen Fry, suffering from bipolar disorder, walked out a few days into its maiden run. Therefore, it seems strange that Edward Hall should choose to revive it.

The play begins in Wormwood Scrubs in the 1960s where George Blake, a notorious double agent, is serving a forty-two year sentence. Blake (Geoffrey Streatfield) did immense damage to the West’s cause, putting many agents in harm’s way and revealing the existence of the Allies’ tunnel under Soviet Berlin (Operation Gold) to the KGB.  He strikes up an unlikely friendship with Irish petty criminal Sean Bourke who, in 1966, helps him to spring the prison, with a hacksaw and a rope.

The theme of entrapment continues to the hideout and then Blake’s Moscow flat. The irony is that Bourke, having liberated Blake, makes the fatal error of visiting him in Moscow where he ends up virtually imprisoned himself. Their oddball relationship ensues under hints of homosexual attraction which is never played through. Bourke is reduced to teaching “Danny Boy” to Blake’s Russian housekeeper (Cara Horgan). Danny Lee Wynter and Philip Bird complete the cast as a cartoon image of the KGB which is both irritating and predictable. Continue reading Cell Mates by Simon Gray