Directed by James Evans
The Playhouse, Canberra Theatre Centre to 20 October
Reviewed by Len Power 12 October 2018
Taking place in a dystopian world before a soulless industrial setting, James Evans’ production of ‘Julius Caesar’ has a reality that seems frighteningly close to our current political and social situation.
Written in about 1599, Shakespeare’s history play presents the political machinations that led to the assassination of Rome’s Julius Caesar and the aftermath of that act. The characters involved in the assassination strongly believe their actions are justified but the citizens of Rome are turned against them by Caesar’s loyal friend and ally, Mark Antony.
The major characters in this production are well acted. At the opening night, James Evans, the director, performed the large role of Brutus at short notice and was very effective. Nick Simpson-Deeks was a fine Cassius, convincing in his arguments to encourage Brutus to join the conspirators.
Sara Zwangobani gave a commanding and charismatic performance in the usually male role of Mark Antony. Her ‘Friends, Romans, Countrymen’ speech was especially well played. Kenneth Ransom had a strong presence as Julius Caesar and Maryanne Fonceca gave an appealing and believable performance as Portia, the wife of Brutus. There were uneven performances by some of the other actors in the show with lines recited without depth, especially early in the play.
The striking set design by Anna Tregloan works very well. Providing the blank canvas for the characters to smear the word ‘Freedom’ in blood after the assassination was inspired and the atmosphere created in conjunction with Verity Hampson’s lighting design during the battle in the second act was very effective. Nate Edmondson’s music and sound design added nicely to the atmosphere of the set and lighting design.
The dystopian world created by James Evans’ production is stark and uncompromising. It’s a fine production that works well even if it is discomforting. The fear for an audience is that a world like this may not be so far away from our own. With our current political situation, maybe we’re there already and just refuse to recognize it.
Len Power’s reviews are also broadcast on his ‘On Stage’ performing arts radio program on Mondays and Wednesdays from 3.30pm on Artsound FM 92.7.