What you’d get if Lord Sugar’s lot went after Caesar!… PATRICK MARMION reviews Julius Caesar
Julius Caesar **
Verdict: Rookie Romans
Who was the noblest Roman of all? From Julius Caesar to Silvio Berlusconi, the Eternal City has had its fair share of contenders vying for the title of il grande formaggio.
Now that competition is heating up again, thanks to a touring revival of the opening of Shakespeare’s tragedy in Stratford, and a musical parody about the disgraced media mogul in Southwark.
Julius Caesar at the RSC is the most curious offering, as he throws a cast of rookies and debutants to the lions in another solemnly PC vision of the Bard.
Director Atri Banerjee presents the dog-eat-dog—or cat-eat-Christian—world of Ancient Rome as a wonderfully inclusive and diverse democracy.
Here, the conspirators who join forces against the supposed ambition of chubby middle-aged Caesar (Nigel Barrett) are hip lesbian millennials.
What this immaculately PC, tidy, and odorless production lacks is a sense of chaos.
It’s as if a god like Alan Sugar created a version of The Apprentice and gave a team of young faction wannabes the task of going after Caesar.
Rising to the challenge, Kelly Gough is a fierce Cassius. Like a rugby prop, he throws his shoulder into Shakespeare’s oratorio verse to prod Thalissa Teixeira’s long, languid Brutus into leading a conspiracy against César.
Sadly though, Teixeira remains doggedly gorgeous and decidedly lazy. Maybe it’s because she’s enjoying the perfect life with her vibrant wife, Portia.
Since she tells us that she loves Caesar (platonically), she is motivated to kill him just for the honor of ending his ambition.
Today, unfortunately, honor is an anachronism and ambition a moral positive, leaving us with an ideological vacuum, with little reason for the cabalists to risk their cozy utopia of diversity and inclusion.
It might have helped if William Robinson, like his rival Mark Antony, was more of a nasty fascist rather than a similarly sensitive millennial.
And, with the exception of Nadi Kemp-Sayfi’s emotionally modulated Portia, the overly emphatic diction all but destroys Shakespeare’s nuance, irony, and moods.
Rosanna Vize’s staging looks great, with a huge rotating cube housing an olive tree and allowing for artistic projections that also convey a dark environmental message.
Inscrutably related to this is the use of oil instead of fake blood and an atomic clock that tells time.
And there’s stunning music from Jasmin Kent Rodgman, combining primal wails, pounding drums, and cacophonous brass.
What this slick, clean, odorless production PC lacks is a sense of chaos.
For that we must look to Shakespeare’s grammar, expurgated everywhere and reaching its nadir in the bathos of Mark Antony’s verdict on Brutus: “She is an honorable man.”
Verdict: the most ignoble Roman
As many women know to their own expense, Silvio Berlusconi has to be handled with care. I’m afraid so does this new generic and naive biomusical, Berlusconi, opening the new Southwark Playhouse third venue.
The chaotic tone of Ricky Simmonds and Simon Vaughan’s show, which runs for close to three hours, is misjudged, inviting us to laugh at the antics of the con man famous for throwing ‘bunga bunga’ sex parties at his villa, but also alleging to lament the fate of the women whose lives he poisoned.
Nor is there much Italian in the very Anglo-Saxon rock score, which could in fact be from the opera Berlusconi himself is writing, in one of the show’s unfunny jokes.
The chaotic tone of the Ricky Simmonds and Simon Vaughan show, which is close to three hours, is misjudged.
James Grieve’s reduced production fills the narrow stage with a marble precipice that emulates the steps of the Italian parliament. So, reduce the choreography to marching in place and waving your arms.
And couldn’t he at least have found a short, fat, bald Berlusconi instead of the tall, skinny Sebastien Torkia, with his fertile locks?
In a crowded field that includes Nero and the Borgias, the four-time former Italian prime minister was surely one of the most ignoble Romans of all. And now he has a musical to match.
Fierce charade to make the Met squirm
By Veronica Lee
Accidental death of an anarchist *****
WHAT exquisite timing for this exploration of heavy-handed policing, which has its London premiere (after originating in Sheffield theaters) just as the capital’s police force is threatened with disbandment after a long series of scandals. .
References to the shortcomings of the Met figure prominently in Tom Basden’s brilliant adaptation of Dario Fo and Franca Rame’s political farce, based on real-life events when an anarchist ‘fell’ out a window while being questioned by the Milan police in 1969.
In the updated version of Mr. Basden, Inspector Burton (Howard Ward) questions The Maniac (Daniel Rigby), a fantasist and con man suffering, he says, from “histrionic mania” over his latest impersonation when he learns of that a suspicious death at a police station will be investigated by a judge.
Disguising himself as a judge, he begins questioning the police, including Detective Daisy (Jordan Metcalfe), snooty Superintendent Curry (Tony Gardner), and snooty Officer Joseph (Shane David-Joseph).
Tom Basden’s script is packed with sight gags and clever wordplay, and Daniel Raggett’s production moves quickly to create exciting entertainment.
But as he delves into their clearly false account of the incident, The Maniac encourages them to add layer upon layer of deception, ending up with the ludicrous notion that it was the officers’ nice treatment of the anarch, including singing a song with him. hilariously staged, that motivated him to jump out the window.
Leading a talented cast, Mr. Rigby delivers a bravura performance: jokingly breaking the fourth wall, effortlessly taking the audience with him as he reshapes the officers’ words, and running around investigative reporter Fi Phelan (Ruby Thomas), sent to cover the death.
Mr. Basden’s script is packed with sight gags and clever puns, and Daniel Raggett’s production moves quickly to create exciting entertainment.
The play has only a short run in Hammersmith, but it is surely destined for the West End.
Until April 8 (lyric.co.uk)
Step up for a truly original show
By Georgina Brown
Waldo’s circus of magic and terror ****
Verdict: Grace under pressure
At the center of this musical spectacle are two disappearing acts. In one, Waldo, the charmless ringmaster and magician of a traveling circus, locks a closet on two performers. He then he opens it. Hey presto, they’ve vanished. Magic.
In yet another more covert operation, the Nazis ‘gently purged the world’ (to borrow their words), rounding up and ‘discarding’ those deemed ‘useless’. Terror beyond imagination.
Writers Hattie Naylor and Jamie Beddard have weaved together this remarkable if uneven piece of true stories of the likes of Waldo and his circus troupe where those who didn’t fit in anywhere else were welcome, often because of their supposed “nature.”
In Germany, under the Nazis, many disabled performers were also smuggled to safety through circus networks.
It’s not like Waldo (a powerless Garry Robson) runs a charity. He refuses to take in Joseph, who is Jewish.
Meanwhile, his latest recruit, Gerhard (Lawrence Swaddle), falls for Krista (Abbie Purvis), a short person, but considers ‘feeble-minded’ Dora disposable. Even under this big magic tent, fascism finds fertile ground.
Early on, Krista challenges us to “look, look, look” at those the Brownshirts label as “monsters,” declaring that she’ll take that word back, make it her own, and make it hers to shout about. She which she does herself, singing and with delicious defiance.
More mesmerizing still is the aerial duet between Renee (Jonny Leitch, also the band’s drummer) and Peter (Tilly Lee-Kronich), two very different bodies spinning with dreamy grace and desire on a trapeze beneath Ti’s atmospheric big top. Green.
There is much to praise here, especially the ambition of a production in which disabled, neurodivergent and non-disabled artists together reveal the dangers of fascism.
If only the acting, characterization, and storytelling were as skillful and dazzling as the juggling, contortion, and rope work.
Still, the show’s originality and bravado on so many levels takes your breath away.
(For tour dates visit www.extraordinarybodies.org.uk)
Ugly Sisters Help Shiny Ashes
Verdict: A ballet to escape from gloomy times
Panto’s season may be over, but there’s still ballet. For in the Royal Ballet’s Cinderella, there is a comic twist of the Ugly Sisters, galloping through the piece with indefatigable enthusiasm.
In fact, Gary Avis as the older sister has more than a touch of Julian Clary about him.
This is the revival, 75 years later, of Frederick Ashton’s production to Prokofiev’s score. Tom Pye’s set is stunning.
In the Royal Ballet’s Cinderella, there is a comic twist to the Ugly Sisters, who gallop through the piece with unremitting enthusiasm.
Inside the house, poor Cinders is dusting, while the two Heffalump sisters fight for the dancing master’s attention.
On the first night, it was Marianela Nunes as Cinders, melancholic and sweet instead of downtrodden. Prokofiev had written that he wanted Cinderella to be a real person.
The tug at the heartstrings comes when she puts her dead mother’s portrait on the mantelpiece and dances with the broom.
And wow, how funny is that. In the first act, where the Fairy Godmother, a serene Fumi Kaneko, presides over the fairies of the four seasons, it was the rat-drawn pumpkin carriage that stole the show.
Vadim Muntagirov is an exceptional prince. He is dignified and aloof before he arrives at Cinders, all content with passion thereafter.
Prokofiev lacks Tchaikovsky’s dazzling melodies, but it’s a score that grows on you.
There is a live screening in theaters on April 12. Hurry up!
It works until May 3.