THEATRE REVIEW: Julius Caesar starring Ben Whishaw, David Morrissey & Michelle Fairley

WORTH A LOOK?: *****

WHERE: Bridge Theatre

WHEN: 27/1, press night 30/1, runs to 15/4/18

This is the show that should have been the one to launch Nick Hytner’s Bridge Theatre.

  • Read on for reasons including why this is boundary-pushing, accessible Shakespeare

It starts as a rock gig with a band playing songs including Rock ‘n’ Roll Star by Oasis, Survivor’s Eye of The Tiger (during which star David Morrissey appears in character with ‘Mark Antony’ emblazoned on the back of a sports robe, to egg on the crowd) and Seven Nation Army by the White Stripes.

Last year we weren’t especially keen on show Young Marx, which opened this venue, and the auditorium has been reconfigured for this to allow a pit area where the action unfolds on podiums which emerge through the floor.

It also means that a crowd of several hundred are standing in the pit to move around the staging and also to hide members of the cast who perform promenade-style there.

The space has all the benefits of a modern theatre (think the Dorfman at the National), with the flexibility offered at the Young Vic and the ability to give an immersive experience to the audience which will be familiar to visitors of Shakespeare’s Globe.

This production is in modern-day dress but doesn’t draw too many President Trump parallels other than the occasional red baseball cap being worn by audience members or being sold as merchandise.

Drawing the pit audience into the action, first with the rallying of the band, and later as speeches are given means that the seeds of rabble-rousing spilling over into anarchy are sown liberally.

David Calder gives us a fitting, vain Caesar who dismisses the premonition of his wife that his day is about to get dark. Ben Whishaw agonises as Brutus over the problem brought to him by the deep-thinking Cassius (a terrific Michelle Fairley).

David Morrissey gets the best lines as Caesar’s friend Antony and he does much with them as the liberal elite’s attempt to do what it believes to be right misfires spectacularly.

Hytner’s production is a triumph of staging and harnesses the energy of the baying mob to produce something which builds on the interactivity of 2016’s spectacular all-women Shakespeare Trilogy which won our monsta for Best Revival and is to be screened on BBC4 later this year.

It’s exactly the sort of boundary-pushing, accessible Shakespeare which will encourage young people into theatres everywhere.

  • Picture by Manuel Harlan via Facebook courtesy Bridge Theatre. Tickets
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