Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Set Honor in One Eye and Death i' th' Other

Saw the Donmar Julius Caesar at St. Ann's Warehouse last night. I liked the concept very much. The play-within-a-play was set in a women's prison. Two levels of meaning ran simultaneously through the play. Shakespeare's Roman world of ambition and betrayal. Also, the modern prison system, with its goal of reform and lust for spectacle. The women were Caesar, Brutus, Cassius, Portia, Calpurnia and so on, but they were also tough broads, rightly or wrongly incarcerated.

In that criminal world, Harriet Walter playing Brutus seemed to come from a different sphere, or from a different play. Her noble poise and her classical training fitted awkwardly with the rest of the cast. Jenny Jules as Cassius took some warming to, but was the most sympathetic figure by the end of the play. I loved the originality of having Mark Anthony (Cush Jumbo) sprawling on the floor, surrounded by a gun-toting mob as he started on his famous funeral oration, but the speech quickly became predictable as he mastered completely the will of the Roman crowd. Clare Dunne was a sensitive yet courageous Portia. Jade Anouka, as Calpurnia, allowed her character's tenderness to show through her haughty bearing.

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