As a person who undoubtedly appreciates Shakespeare’s works, but often does not like them due to the monotony studying them in high school has brought, I always relish the chance to see a Shakespeare play on the stage, as the characters and the story are seen the way they are meant to be seen – not through a late night SparksNotes cram session.
Vertigo theatre has an innate ability to bring a new flair to every play I’ve seen, and their recent adaptation of William Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar was no exception. I came into this show expecting great things, and I received even more.
First of all, Vertigo made a bold and somewhat risky choice to perform Caesar on a thrust theatre setting. Thrust theatre is a setup that has one main stage bordered on three sides by three different audience sections that are usually closer to the ground than a typical proscenium theatre. This created an extremely intimate and close mood with the audience members, however, and further enhanced battlefield scenes by having the stage lower to the ground with the audience looking down upon it. Additionally, the thrust theatre was similar in construct to what I imagined a Roman Colosseum to look like. All in all, the risk involved with this stylistic choice paid off extremely well in my opinion.
One of the most beautiful and interesting aspects of this show was the set design. In the side of the stage closest to backstage, there was a cracked statuesque portrait of Pompeii hanging from the ceiling. There were five Roman columns situated spread around the edges of the stage, and the rest of the stage was bare. The bareness of the set design allowed the actors to create the scenes themselves, which I think was a smart decision especially in conjunction with the thrust theatre.
The costumes were simple but reflective of the time period. However, I wished that the costumes were perhaps a little more intricate in detail, because Julius Caesar wearing a dress shirt didn’t quite sell it for me.
The acting in the show was absolutely superb – Robert Klein as Caesar was a powerful and moving precence. The scenes in which his ghost appeared made me yearn to see more glimpses of it, because it caught my eye every single time. Directorial wise, I think I possibly would have made the ghost linger in all of Brutus’ battle scenes, but I also understand that that would have taken more careful choreography because of the way in which the theatre was set up.
One thing I did not like at all was Marc Antony’s accent; perhaps it was just my ears being picky, but I felt as if Ryan Luhning wasn’t grounded enough in his character, and therefore it felt as if he were still speaking as the actor and not as Marc Antony. There were times where I could have sworn I heard a Canadian redneck accent – if there was an “eh?” in Antony’s funeral speech, it wouldn’t have sounded out of place to me.
Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this play, and I look forward to seeing more of the Shakespeare plays held by Vertigo in the future.
5 thoughts on “Hear Me For My Cause: A Review of Vertigo Theatre’s Julius Caesar ★★★★”
Your opening line rings truth to almost every high school student, which adds to the authenticity of this review: “As a person who undoubtedly appreciates Shakespeare’s works, but often does not like them due to the monotony studying them in high school has brought, I always relish the chance to see a Shakespeare play on the stage, as the characters and the story are seen the way they are meant to be seen – not through a late night SparksNotes cram session.” You not only spoke of your opinion authentically, but you also spoke without being afraid of what others would say in regards to your criticism.
I remember speaking to you following the play, and how you explained to me how Antony’s accent was inauthentic to the time period and location of the piece. I, however, did not realize this until you pointed it out, which speaks to your level of attentiveness during the production. After listening to you speak and reading this piece, I too find Antony’s accent lacking.
In terms of improvement, I would offer that you add more images to this piece because you speak of Pompeii’s statue and by adding a visual would elevate this piece. I would offer the same in terms of costuming as well.
All in all, I enjoyed reading this piece. Never stop writing!
All the love,
Thank you so much for this lovely comment!
As for the SparkNotes quote – I actually didn’t even think about trying to be authentic, I just figured everyone knew what it was like to review a play you never really read with detail by opening Sparknotes. Haha thank you!
I absolutely agree with adding more visuals as well. Looking at it now, my blog seems really bland and flat with the lack of images.
Thanks again for the feedback!
I love how you opened with with a bit of humour in your introductory paragraph, there is a bit of dichotomy in how you described yourself as “A person who undoubtedly appreciates Shakespeare’s works, but often does not like them due to the monotony studying them in high school.” Though it is a contradictory statement, I feel that there is truth in it that all of us AP kids can connect to. Shakespeare is a brilliant writer, yet studying him every year can become quite a drag, if not done right. I have to say that I do agree with you that there is a very noticeable difference between reading Shakespeare and watching a live performance of the play. Something about the synthesis of all of the elements you’ve read on paper (or SparkNotes) coming to life on the stage makes the story much more enjoyable.
Personally, I appreciated how you provided some background knowledge on the type of stage used during the performance. Not everyone is well-versed in theatre, so they might not be able to understand all of the terminology used, but you explained in a simple and understandable way that allowed the reader to grasp the concept easily. I’ll even admit myself that I’ve forgotten quite a bit of the terms we learned in theatre tech last year, so having a refresher was helpful. I also thought it was clever how you managed to notice that the theatre was set up in a style similar to that of a Roman colosseum, though that setup may have been unintentional, the fact that you noticed this shows that you have a lot of background knowledge and experience in theatre.
On a side note, I have to say that I agree with you on Marc Antony’s accent. If I remember correctly, his accent switched several times throughout the play which made me feel less immersed into the action of the play. What was also very distracting about it was the fact that none of the other actors had an accent like his, I’m glad I wasn’t the only person who noticed this!
In order to improve your piece, I would offer that you discuss more of the plot. Your review was mostly centred on the set design and the actors themselves rather than the plot, and knowing that you’re a very intellectual and analytical student, I’d like to see more of your thoughts on the story of the play, and the meaning behind it.
Keep up the good work!
Thank you for commenting on this piece!
I love how you also noticed Antony’s accent as well – I’m also glad I was not the only one who noticed it! Also, I forgot that none of the other actors had that accent , which was probably why it took me out of the play so much.
I will admit that I rushed this blog as well, so I will definitely go back in and add more plot details as soon as I get the chance. It is quite lacking of a play review when I haven’t even addressed the plot! I guess I was just focussing with a theatre mind and not a writer’s mind this time around.
Thank you for taking the time to read my blog!
I love how you begin your review with an honest opinion of Shakespeare’s works which is popular amongst most students. It assures readers that you are going to be completely true in your review, sharing only true opinions of the play. You can tell this blog could influence high school students who struggle with Shakespeare to visit the theatre to get a better understanding! And oh my gosh I’m on the second paragraph of this comment but I just looked at Victoria’s comment and we both can agree on your opening! Carmen, you truly are gifted at writing!! Anyways, continuing..
I also love how you explain what thrust theatre seating is for those who may not know, and describe the play’s set design, costumes, and acting. It gives your review a professional feel and I find myself forgetting that this is a student blog and not a published article.
Within a published article, there is also often a section in which the writer delves into the negatives of their experience. It was written in a very mature like fashion which did not downgrade the play. As you began to explain your opinions of Antony’s accent, it did not negatively influence my opinions on the play but rather improved my theatre knowledge and what to look out for.
A glow I can give would to expand on your conclusion. While you ended your blog well, I found myself yearning for more. I guess the ending felt slightly abrupt and I would have liked that pretty bow at the end when you tie everything together. Regardless, I loved reading your blog and am so thankful I was given the chance to see our play experience through another’s eyes.