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.
4 thoughts on “Julius Caesar: A Vertigo Review”
I know personally you don’t like drama or acting, but I admire that you have the ability to respect and identify that art is art no mater what vessel it may take, and you recognizing and appreciating that while giving an honest and unbiased review of the play was truly a pleasure to read.
That being said reading this was quite the pleasure; it wasn’t too lengthy nor was it too short, it was perfect length for a play review. I especially enjoyed the fact that every line you had written had meaning and there wasn’t anything that was excessive or unnecessary in your post. Props to you on staying on topic and saying exactly what you wanted to. I also liked your style and grammar, because above all those were the best things about this piece. Your style is witty and pleasant, and the opportunities you present to yourself with your clever style you never fail to use. And of course no on can ever fault you on bad grammar, at least no on that I know of, I’d say that this is a piece which could be taken as an example of how to use proper grammar, which is actually a big deal.
What I would recommend?
ask yourself more questions so that you may take your critical approach to writing further one more step:
aside from my enjoyment of this piece, how far can I take it, if it means something to me, why does it matter? why was there a model of Caesar’s face made of 5 parts which were not taken down one by one to represent the completion of each act, or the destruction of Roman Civilization?
Overall I really enjoyed reading your review of the play, and for appreciating what was good while noticing what else could be improved.
Thank you so much for reading this post, even if it was just a simple play review. I agree with you in regards to taking a more critical approach to my review, as I feel that would demonstrate more than just a surface level explanation of the piece on my part. In fact, I too had noticed the fact that the head was split into fifths, but I dismissed this idea as simple coincidence. Perhaps I could also incorporate some sort of relevance to the real world we live in as well, strengthening my reasons to see this play.
Thank you so much for the input, and I’ll take it into account for next time.
After reading so much on Dorian Gray, I am very thrilled to see that you chose to write on Julius Caesar. I enjoyed reading your review on the play, and I can tell you are very well versed in Caesar after seeing the play in action. Your review in particular was insightful, and you managed to spot quite a few details that I myself did not pick up on. It was very interesting when you found out that the costumes were indeed quite accurate to the time period, because I too was slightly confused when I initially saw them. Such an attention to detail will be most beneficial if you ever decide to write on Caesar once again. I know for certain if I am ever unsure of an aspect in Caesar, I will most certainly ask you for your fantastic insight on the play. Anyway, I feel like you have such a powerful connection to the fragmented mask of Caesar! You could most certainly write a fascinating piece on that alone!
Now that you have such a deep understanding of the play itself, start to think on how you can connect to any prompt given to you, and particularly how a piece from 1599 is still relevant to the present day. Shakespeare has proven time and time again that his ideas are still strong even today, and finding that exact truth within Julius Caesar will allow reader to see the beauty that is your art.
Never stop writing my dear friend!
A recurring element of your writing which intrigues me is your voice. Whenever I read your writing, the voice-over that reads your piece to me in my head sounds VERY to your voice, to the point where it feels like you are reading out your writing to me (storytime with Mr Goldsmith!). Quite often, you develop your voice in writing without the need to explicitly establish a deep connection with your topic. Previously, I was under the assumption that a writer always had to have a personal connection to their subject in order to write with a strong voice; how else are you supposed to make your voice as a writer apparent? In that sense, your writing style is an anomaly to my presumption. After looking through your multiple writing pieces, I’ve come to the conclusion that your strong voice is derived from your strong belief in your opinions. It’s a sort of sincerity, really. I felt that your structure was very purposeful as well: you started by focusing on the set itself, which was the bigger picture, and then gradually moved along until you reached the finer details of the acting skills of the individuals. Your work thus appears to be very methodical, which is perfect in writing a review.
I’m genuinely curious about the parts of a play that you choose to focus on when you are watching as an audience member. Personally, I was very lost in the technicalities of the play (movements of the characters in regards to the stage, lighting choices, sounds choices, body position) that I forgot to look at the actual play. I’m not saying that I wasn’t mesmerized by the play – as a drama student, I was! After reading your piece, however, I feel that I might have failed to enjoy the play as an audience member. You noticed that Antony had a relatively weaker presence compared to his fellow actors, particularly “Brutus and Cassius”, which, in retrospect, I agree with. At the time, however, I feel that I was absorbed looking into the characters’ positions on stage, along with the director’s choices of lighting, to be able to notice this. It’s like I was reading a book for the sake of understanding the literary devices that the author used while failing to notice the beauty of the content as a whole.
Given that this was a theatre-review, I was really, REALLY hoping that you would share with us an aspect of the play that you would have done differently. Doing so would help me understand the vision that you may have for a scene that you watched, and would ultimately give me an idea of your critiquing method.
Overall, I enjoyed this piece as something more than a theatre review; I enjoyed this piece as if I were enjoying Julius Caesar once more, but only I wasn’t so distracted by the technicalities this time. Furthermore, your strong voice made it so that I could hear your voice play in my head as I read over your blog post. Thank you for allowing me to learn from you once more, as you have in the past with various writing pieces!