Review: It's rock and roll and riot with Ben Whishaw, David Morrissey and Michelle Fairley in Julius Caesar
I'm in a crowd watching a band play rock tunes, it's getting lively and animated.
Merchandise and refreshment sellers weave their way through the rhythmically nodding heads and shuffling feet. Hands have started clapping along to the music and flags are being waved.
It's like a gig except it isn't a band name emblazoned on the banners, T-Shirts and posters, it is the face of Julius Caesar (David Calder). This is a political rally and it feels celebratory.
Given the mix of edgier and popular tracks on the band's play list, Julius Caesar is a lot more popular in music circles than President Trump, with whom we are obviously supposed to draw parallels.
When the man himself appears, we are quickly herded to one side with shouts of 'Get out of the way!' by serious-looking, ear-piece wearing security.
This is to become a common occurrence throughout the play - the tone of the herding reflective of whether it is part of the action or to make way for parts of stage rising up out of the floor we are standing on. But more on that later.
Calder's Julius Caesar is a commanding presence or perhaps the circus around him makes him so.
Ben Whishaw's Brutus is a politely muted form on the periphery of the hullabaloo; afterwards he sits at a café table, drinking red wine and deep in a book which he has to wear glasses to read. This is obviously more his comfort zone.
In fact he is often seen with a book, playing with the glasses in his hand when he has to leave off reading.
He is incongruous to his name: he thinks, he considers, he lacks the brutality of mind and personality that perhaps would mean a different fate.
When he does get angry - the verbal fight between him and Cassius (Michelle Fairley) crackles with tension and there is some superb angry eating by Ben - it is out of frustration that his carefully thought through plans are not quite the success he envisioned.
Mark Antony (David Morrissey), by comparison, is a far more brutish - dangerous - character in many ways. Turning from Caesar's supportive 'yes' man into a Venus fly trap.
Ironically, he uses words far better than the bookish Brutus and crucially he seems to understand the crowd better - another fatal flaw in Brutus and his co-conspirators well-meaning plan.
I've seen the 'Friends, Romans, countrymen...' speech delivered with obvious irony even borderline sarcasm. Morrissey's delivery is the perfect blend of grief, passion and reason - you don't realise cleverness of it until after the crowd has dispersed. From there he is merciless compare to Brutus' mercy.
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