As of late, I have had the pleasure of attending director Ron Jenkins adaptation of “Julius Caesar,” at the Vertigo Theatre. Being a text that I had little knowledge about, I read through a fair portion of the play before watching it live, and the disparity between characters on text and characters in front of my eyes was stark. However, in a good way.
To begin, I would first like to talk about the set. I absolutely loved the set design created for this play, as the main set piece captured the atmosphere and presence of Caesar better than just reading through the original text. Said main set piece was the cracked mural of Caesar’s head that hung at the back of the stage. As the scenes changed and the mood shifted, various lighting and visual effects were cast upon the head to encapsulate the scene. Two examples of this include the rain falling across the face as Cassius and Brutus plotted Caesar’s demise, and Caesar’s ghost appearing whilst blue, ghostly flames danced on the mural. The choice to portray such pathetic fallacy into the play was excellent in improving comprehension and enjoyment of the play. (If I could, I would include a photo of the set, but the image is unable to be used as The Calgary Herald owns it, so here is a link instead: http://calgaryherald.com/entertainment/theatre/review-vertigo-delivers-compelling-history-lesson-with-julius-caesar)
As for props and costume design, I enjoyed the former in regards to the use of blood, as it demonstrated the prophecy of Romans bathing in the Emperor’s blood. Costume Design was initially a tad confusing for me, as the use of some modern garments were included into the play. Personally, I took issue with the use of ties used on the noblemen, but it wasn’t until after I looked into this did I discover there were neckties used by some Roman nobility.
Now, on to the acting itself! I believe that the characters of Caesar, Brutus, and Cassius all were portrayed eloquently and accurately to their character. One of my favorite scenes was when Cassius told of how Antony offered the crown to Caesar thrice, yet as she retold the events, the actors played them out silently. This was a great vision on behalf of the director to once again ease comprehension of the subject matter. The actress who portrayed Octavius Caesar also did a great job in filling the role and carrying herself with the air of one such as Caesar. Brutus’s servant, Lucius, was a risk in casting, as the actor was just a boy. Despite the pressure of being on stage with professional actors, the boy pulled his own weight, making him a noteworthy edition. One completely biased gripe I had with Marc Antony’s character was just the presence he carried, or lack thereof. Cassius and Brutus both spoke loud and with emphasis as their voices were naturally deeper, almost accented, and thus carried more throughout the auditorium. Antony’s voice was a tad higher and soft, removing any effect of power from his character for me, personally. However, if one actress stole the show for me, it was Lennette Randall, the woman who played the soothsayer. The very first scene of the play opens with the soothsayer, where her wild and deranged character captivated me instantly. The actress would run around the set, jumping onto the pedestals placed around, yelling about the prophecies that lay out the plot of the play. In fact, after one scene where she was rambling, she went and set with the audience in the risers to try and mask her character, which I loved to see.
Overall, I would have given this play a 9/10 rating, as one of the best productions of Shakespeare I’ve seen from the company. Indeed, I think that it would be most profitable for teachers to take their students to see this play if their class if starting to research Shakespeare. Vertigo Theatre and The Shakespeare Company have outdone themselves again.