Little is known about the small, cozy town called Stratford-Upon-Avon, besides the fact that it is the birthplace of William Shakespeare, and that it marks the home of the Royal Shakespeare Company, or RSC. The RSC is famous for consistently producing world-class performances of Shakespeare plays. Their main house is currently under construction, so they are holding their plays in a temporary playhouse. The Courtyard Theater is constructed of plywood and paint within a metal box. On the outside it looks like an enlarged freighter. It is modular, and can be disassembled. They will bring it to New York later this year.
Julius Caesar is one of Shakespeare’s most famous tragedies. The role of Mark Antony has been played by many Shakespeare greats, such as Marlon Brando in the 1953 film. This play is extremely hard to even attempt, because it takes a full range of strong actors. The set also needs to change without changing. There are many settings that must be shown with one stage. The play also has almost no jokes, so playing to the audience is not an option. To even make an attempt at this play, it must take a lot of interpretation to bring the set, acting, and script all into one.
The performance opened outside of the script: Romulus and Remus fighting. This was extremely effective because it foreshadowed the fact that Rome would be divided. Then came the text. The first scene was beautifully directed, with the tribunes on either side of the cobbler, and the other merchants around the them. The yelling and scolding was magnified by this setup.
Julius Caesar himself was the first thing that struck me. He was royal and tough, like a king without a crown. His fatal flaw was made clear from the get go. It was obvious that he cared to much for his social status, which was clear because he would not display and sense of fear. As a ghost, he was ominous and foreboding. He dressed in a white night gown stained with red, and wielded a sword. When Brutus rushed on Strato’s sword, he was cut off in the middle by the ghost, who walked in between the men and dealt Brutus’s final blow. This was effective because it is Caesar, not Strato, who really kills Brutus.
Mark Antony was tyrannical in act II. He roared around the stage, terrifying messengers. Only Octavius was treated as an equal. Octavius also stormed about like a bull. Brutus and Cassius combined for an effective duo. They seemed to have an unseen connection which was like the bond of twins. Cassius had compassion, which is vital. Brutus came alive in the second half. He was passionate against Antony’s forces and in his death; he showed that he was really the noblest of all Romans!
Watching the play, it was immediately striking that there are almost no women. Contrary to many of his other plays, especially tragedies, there were no strong women at all. It is odd to see such a different style of writing from the same man. It's like two sides of a coin, but more so, as if the two sides are also of a different material.