Julius Caesar by Shakespeare – The Bridge Theatre
I managed to secure a last minute, and cheap, ticket for this through the Bridge’s Young Bridge scheme. £15 to see Michelle Fairely, David Morrissey and Ben Whishaw in an impressively inventive Shakespeare epic is not too shabby at all. Well done on the affordability front Bridge! Boo hiss to the West End (see previous post).
As to be expected, the performances were all brilliant. I’d have been shocked at anything less from actors of such well-established high calibre. It’s not an easy environment to perform in either as a large portion of the audience are right in amongst the action, sometimes very much getting in the way. One of my favourite performances of the night was not actually from one of the leads: I thought Leaphia Darko did a great job in her turn as Portia. Incredibly emotionally affecting in very short time. Adjoa Andoh as Casca was also great, alternating effortlessly between comedy and menace.
I bought one of the promenading tickets. Being in amongst the action was thrilling and intense. The battle scenes in particular really make you feel their energy and panic. It was something I don’t think I’d have experienced so keenly sat down and away from the action. The scenes in which Marc Anthony or Brutus are addressing a crowd are also greatly improved by having a crowd of non-actors surrounding them. Every emotion the speeches are supposed to elicit from the Romans actually comes to be in the audience. It’s impressive stuff.
That said, constantly moving around was sometimes distracting. I’m so used to seeing theatre in darkened and still rooms that people moving around me drew me out of the performance. Something about standing also seemed to have made a few people more comfortable with talking during the show, even when they were stood literally centimetres from the performers! Being quite short, my view wasn’t always good. The play is performed on raised stages (very well done to the stage crew by the way, getting so many people out of the way so quickly to bring in props/allow the enormous stages to rise is no mean feat! They got an onstage bow at the end which was lovely and much deserved). But even with raised stages, if people rushed too close together and I was stood behind a tall person, I could see nowt. You could still get a great view though if you ensured you stayed on the outskirts of the throng, free to reposition yourself as needed. Overall though, I think the promenading ticket was worth it. The atmosphere more than makes up for the occasional bad view and distractions. I’ll likely watch the NT Live broadcast to see anything I might have missed.
The play manages to make Shakespeare feel fresh and pertinent without feeling cloying. Some adaptations that try too hard to link to what’s happening in the today’s world can appear forced but this doesn’t. The links made felt appropriate and the modern staging adds to the story. Highly recommended and well worth signing up to the Young Bridge scheme – it’s free as well.