Julius Caesar is one of my favourite Shakespeare plays – it was the first one I came across, studying it for my Year 9 SATS. I was lucky that I had a great teacher – this experience sparked a lifelong love of Shakespeare in me.
I am sure that if this production had been around at the time, my whole class – many of whom were not particularly scholarly – would have loved it. Dominic Dromgoole’s production is an example of what the Globe does best – bringing Shakespeare to the public in an immediate and accessible way without a hint of dumbing down.
This production makes the most of the open Globe space, and the groundlings, to emphasise the power of the mob. The rousing speeches by Caesar, Brutus and – most famously – Antony are delivered to an audience which included several cast members, whooping and cheering. When Antony begins his “Friends, Romans, countrymen” speech, I could feel that I was genuinely part of that mob.
As is usual in this theatre, the cast is superb. Tom McKay is a young but effective Brutus, less sympathetic than the character I am familiar with, but providing interesting food for thought. Luke Thompson’s Antony is convincing in his oratory, yet in his portrayal I could see the seeds of the older Antony in Antony and Cleopatra. George Irving, despite his comparatively short stage time, is a memorable Caesar.
The production employs a kind of Elizabethan-Roman hybrid in terms of costumes, a style which I could imagine being worn by actual Elizabethans when the play was first performed. It is testament to the brilliance of the Globe that even in the face of this historical accuracy, the freshness of the production does not diminish.