No restricted views to contend with on this trip to the Roundhouse, @adders and I had our own front row*. Brutus and Caesar towering over you to deliver speeches and sword wielding soldiers running straight towards you with blood dripping swords. I was surprised not to find a small spatter of gore or blood on me at the end.
And that was the other particularly great thing about this RSC production of Julius Caesar - plenty of blood and gore. Not a dry stab in sight. Feel for the wardrobe department though.
I've never seen Julius Caesar before so I admit some of the subtleties of the rhetoric washed over me as I tried to keep track of which 'ius was which (the Roman's really lacked imagination when it came to names) and who was supporting whom.
This is definitely a boys play. No ladies making or breaking hearts just plain old men, politics and fighting. It nails its colours to mast in the opening scene which is a frantic, bestial fight between Romulus and Remus. The fight quickly segues into wild, almost frenzied, feast-day festivities and celebrations which seem to involve people being whipped.
The celebrations are broken up by some more moderate members of Caesar's senate who quickly sew the seeds of disquiet and discontent with the great leader. The first half examines how this discontent quickly grows into conspiracy with Caius Cassius persuading Caesar's friend Marcus Brutus that Caesar needs to go culminating in his bloody murder.
Arguing among themselves and struggling to maintain the upper hand Brutus is haunted by Caesar's ghost. The assassins struggle to reconcile their bloody deed and struggle to keep Mark Anthony's troops at bay. Soul searching leads some to take their own life, while others fall in battle.
The body count mounts up until only Brutus is left with Mark Anthony hot on his heals. Brutus who seemingly had honest motives for getting rid of Caesar finally turns his sword on himself and is honoured in death by Mark Anthony.
It's all very energy-laden and exciting. No need for fancy sets just some nice projections of crowds and marching soldiers on a series of panels at the back of the stage and a brief appearance of some marble steps.
Greg Hicks (above right) plays Caesar with a hint of ambiguity and Sam Troughton (with John Mackay as Cassius above left), who was very good as Romeo, is an even better Brutus. He gives the character a very human and troubled edge, I almost didn't want him to die. Almost.
But the Stan gong for performance has to go to Darrell D'Silva (top right) as Mark Anthony who passionate delivery nearly had me running on stage to fight for him.
I'm glad this was the first Julius Caesar I've seen. It is a play of high rhetoric and drama and the performances need to elevate that otherwise it would risk being a bunch of too staid speeches interspersed with stabbings. I'm also glad it was my first because it was performed in Roman costumes and you've got to enjoy watching men run around in skirts for an hour or three.
It's got 3.8/5 from six reviews on UpTheWestEnd.com and I'm giving it four out of five. You'll have to rush to see it though as it finishes this weekend.
* The stage is thrust and the seating around its shorter end run in curved rows which has created just two front row seats either side of the aisle and the steps leading up to the stage. Best seats in the house I reckon as not only are you at the front but it means you only have people behind you as potential fidgets or sweet-wrapper rustlers.
According to the programme Darrell d'Silve was in Criminal Justic and a quick check on imdb shows me that it was the first series in which Mr W was the star.