Shakespeare's Globe, London
Written by William Shakespeare
Directed by Diane Page
The political rhetoric of Julius Caesar is timeless. Recklessly shoehorned into today’s politically correct constraints however and the beauty of Shakespeare's verse is squandered. Diane Page’s production of the classic tragedy seeks to place gender politics centre-stage, with Brutus and Cassius both played by women. To be fair, Anna Crichlow’s Brutus is a well-spoken performance and she makes a fine interpretation of the role’s moral quagmire. But given that this casting decision has led to a part of Mark Anthony’s most famous speech being butchered into: “And, sure, she is an honourable man”, then the production’s incongruities are clear.
There is sound work from Dickson Tyrrell as a credible Caesar and equally from Samuel Oatley whose Mark Anthony does a good job of whipping up the Globe’s groundlings into Rome's plebeians. But too much of the rest of the company’s diction, especially in dialogue rather than otherwise well-projected monologue, is garbled and inaudible.
When Cicero’s death is announced in Act 4, one is almost reminded of Chicago’s Cell Block Tango – “he had it coming” - than be lost in Shakespeare’s perfectly constructed prose, such is the play’s inconsistency. The battle scenes of the story’s endgame are mangled and the stage-combat (developed by Rachel Bown-Williams and Ruth Cooper-Brown), a vital component of any high body-count Shakespeare, is very poor indeed.
There’s enough here, just, to satisfy a schools audience looking for dramatic context in support of the play’s countless classic quotes and speeches, the groundlings in particular again adding heft. But otherwise, this is a brutal assassination of the play.
Et tu Shakespeare's Globe? Then fall Caesar.
Runs until 17 September, playing at both Shakespeare's Globe and on tour across England
Photo credit: Helen Murray