Julius Caesar (Augustine United Church 1 – 5 March ’16)

Antony (Tom Birch), Caesar (Adam Butler) and Calpurnia (Heather Daniel)

“The kind of unbridled creativity I often only see in student productions”

Editorial Rating: 3 Stars

Reimagining Shakespeare’s classic tale in the modern day world of professional football may seem like lunacy to some, but with themes like loyalty, pride in one’s city, questions over physical fitness and a bit of back-stabbing, the parallels between ancient Rome and football today aren’t as dissimilar as might be first assumed – it certainly piqued my interest. However, as can happen in football, I think there was perhaps too much theorising behind this production, which didn’t quite convert to success on the pitch.

Much like when reading a Hilary Mantel novel, I worry when I find myself constantly having to flick back to the character list to be reminded who everyone is and what side they’re on. And with this interpretation assigning each character a footballing role (for one or more teams) as well, it’s certainly not the easiest to follow for someone unfamiliar with the play.

Adam Butler as Caesar is every inch the star player in this outing, commanding attention and respect from all around him, and it is easy to build rapport with him as the fans’ favourite. He is confident, charismatic and handles Shakespeare’s text very well. Charlie Angelo is also enjoyable and convincing as Casca, bringing an air of comedy into what is otherwise quite an intense evening’s entertainment.

Various women are cast in male roles in this production, the most interesting of these being Alice Markey as Decius, who holds her own with strength and precision. However, in arguably the most important scene of the play, where Calpurnia convinces Caesar not to go out, only for Decius to then persuade him otherwise, I would have really liked to have seen the female Decius use a more sexual approach to her argument, heightening the tension in the scene which unfortunately seemed rather rushed.

Indeed, missed opportunities seemed the name of the game throughout, with many great ideas going unfulfilled or veering off-target. With almost all characters being football players, it is surprising how much standing around there is in group scenes, whereas seeing some football in action and the interactions that come naturally within that could add more depth and integrity to the performance. Given the interpretation of this piece I was also disappointed the fight scenes are not reimagined as football matches between the rival factions, and that stabbing is so faithfully used as the murder method of choice. With interesting references to performance-enhancing and other kinds of drugs throughout, maybe “dagger” could have had a whole new meaning?

However, what I particularly enjoyed about this production was the inventiveness of the projected films throughout, showing characters as models, celebrities and footballers on the pitch. These sections work very well to give background and depth to the characters, and to cover any edits from the original script. Additionally, when all characters are on stage reacting to Antony’s speech after Caesar’s death the atmosphere is very powerful and sustained, while the fight scenes show great energy and control. The use of hoodies instead of cloaks, paparazzi and mobile phones were all nice modern touches showing the kind of unbridled creativity I often only see in student productions.

Overall, I admire the headstrong strategy and imagination of the squad in this play, but for me the formation didn’t allow it to achieve a resounding victory.

Star (blue)Star (blue)Star (blue)

Reviewer: Steve Griffin (Seen 2 March)

Visit the Other archive.