Late September, I had the opportunity to see not one, but two Shakespeare plays; Macbeth at the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield and Julius Caesar at The Alhambra Theatre in Bradford. Both were enjoyable in their own way, but my favourite by far was the RSC production of Julius Caesar, the on stage drama was gripping and the drama continued into the interval with a set malfunction adding to the intensity.
Set in Africa, the production was captivating from start to finish. I had initially wondered how it would translate to being set in Africa but have to admit it worked exceptionally well. The cast was made up from many well known actors who will have been familiar to many from their previous work in film and television and this had been part of the appeal for me to see the play. It was not a play I had studied or seen before so I made sure I read up on it before going to see it and was impressed by the reviews that I had seen.
The acting throughout was incredible, the famous soliloquies were exceptional and really captured the mood of the play. The entire cast gave outstanding performances but the real drama came from Paterson Joseph as Brutus and Ray Fearon as Mark Anthony.
The interval had a drama of its own when the safety curtain refused to raise at the end. The stage manager, theatre manager and RSC manager all came out to apologise for the delay which then turned into a cancellation. Everyone was offered a refund or the chance to see the evening performance. Someone asked if the cast might come out into the stalls area so that we could applaud their performances so far. In good nature they all came out and took bows and chatted to the audience at the front of the stalls. As they took their final bows, the safety curtain suddenly rose like a phoenix from the ashes and the RSC manager told a now delighted audience that the show would go on.
The second act seemed just as gripping and I was glad I hadn’t left early like so many others. Mark Anthony’s speech “Friends, Romans, Countrymen” was so powerful that he really brought the text to life. I wish I had seen productions like this when I studied Shakespeare at school as it really brought out the feeling and emotion of the piece.
At the end of the performance, the actors all came on stage to take their bows and applauded the audience for staying with them. It was a fantastic production and I dearly hope it gets released on DVD in the future.