Review by David Munro
Julius Caesar which opens the new season at
the Lyric Hammersmith and heralds the first season of the theatre's
new artistic director David Farr, is not one to which I would
take any one studying the play for a school exam. I might however
take a child new to Shakespeare as this is a very “cool”
production. Strobe lights, back projections, a lot of noise and
mayhem – perfect for the kid into Action Man computer games.
It is as you will have gathered another “Shakespeare in
modern dress” production. Caesar goes to his death in a
lounge suit, the conspirators, except for Brutus, are scruffy
jeans type and in the battle scenes the goodies wear khaki battledress
and the baddies blue/grey.
It is also very PC, girls play boy’s parts and the cast
is sprinkled with coloured actors playing Romans, including Octavius.
I think my only problem would be trying to explain why, when all
the cast tote guns and revolvers, those wishing to kill themselves
refer to swords and then use knives and ignore the handy gun!
All this aside, it is a very speedy production with a lot of
noise, movement and babbling speech, especially in the crowd scenes
which could have come from a Monty Python movie. If the nuances
of which character is which and who is doing what to whom are
lost in the rush, it doesn’t really matter.
To paraphrase another Shakespearean quote “The play’s
the thing with which to catch the interest of the audience”
and it does. Although I am not sure this justifies giving Cinna
the poet a song and dance after he has been murdered by the crowd
and hung up on the scaffolding which passes for scenery, enjoyable
though it may be
There are also one or two outstanding
performances, notably Adrian Schiller as Cassius and Zubin Varla
as Brutus that make you forget they are playing Shakespearian
characters and come across as live and vibrant people.
Christopher Saul’s Caesar was a bombastic tyrant which
was in keeping with the director’s overall view of a modern
parallel with Ancient Rome but didn’t give the actor a chance
to develop the more reflective side of the character. He was effective
none the less and one was sorry to see him go.
The same must be said for the rest of the cast who didn’t
really have time to do much more than rush in, say their lines
and rush off or kill someone depending which act you were in.
Whilst this may have killed the boredom factor inherent in Shakespeare
if you come to it unprepared, it did not give the luckless actors
much chance to impinge their abilities or personalities on the
This is definitely not a production for the Shakespeare student
but I suppose nowadays that doesn’t really matter even though
it may do for you and me. The one thing you can say for it is
that it keeps you awake which I suppose is something.
Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare
Directed by David Farr
Design - Ti Green
Lighting - Neil Austin
Composer - Keith Clauston
Sound - Martin Slavin
Fights - Terry King
CAST – Christopher Saul, Zubin Vaarla, Adrian Schiller,
Philip Edgerley, Charles Daishj, Merryn Owen, Gabriel Bisset-Smith,
Richard Copestake, Richard Clews, Clifford Samuel, Gary Olive,
Patrick Romer, Rachel Pickup, Sharlene Whyte, Rhys Swinburn, Andrew
Melville, Simon Scott , Emily Wachter and Endy McKay
Lyric Hammersmith, King Street , London W6 00L
2nd September – 15th October 2005
Evenings: Mon. – Sat 7.30pm (not 12th September)
Matinees: 15th 20th &28th Sept. 6th &12th Oct 1.0pm
1st 8th & 15th Oct – 2,30 pm
BOX OFFICE - 08700 500 511 www.lyric.co.uk