British Black and Asian Shakespeare Performance Database
Julius Caesar (1987): Company 3, Bristol Old Vic, New Vic Studio, Bristol
PrJulius Caesar (1987)
This production played at the New Vic, Bristol from 19 February - 14 March 1987 and also toured the West Country for a month, performing at schools, prisons, factories and boys' clubs between 16 March - 11 April 1987.
The programme describes Company 3 as "an exciting new part of the Bristol Old Vic, bringing together the very best actors, directors, designers and writers from widely differing cultural and ethnic backgrounds. Company 3 aims to encourage an approach to theatre that reflects a truly multi-cultural society, taking its work out to as wide an audience as possible and welcoming that audience back into its home base."
"The policy is to combine main-house production with multi-ethnic touring shows, cast so as to reflect the various population groups with no sacrifice in performance standards. It is a boldly imaginative scheme, but at the risk of sounding evasive I think the aims of Company 3 would have emerged more clearly if their opening production had not coupled multi-ethnic casting with so many other divergent elements. Roger Rees's cast includes Caribbean, Asian and Liverpool-Chinese actors, but there are only 10 of them - which means that Julius Caesar has to get along without a mob, that ladies are pressed into battledress for Philippi, and that prominent corpses are apt to arise discreetly and fulfil humble duties in the following scene....The visual style is one of modern dress with period additions, beginning with oak garlands and breastplates over business suits and subsequently going over the top when, following the funeral oration, two car-tyres roll over the darkened stage as a prelude to the 'necklacing' of Cinna, the poet. When Brutus posts guard, armed with Roman weapons, in his tent and asks Lucius to touch his instrument, this turns out to be a small tape recorder. Fitfully flaring up amid the smoke, darkness and crashing anachronisms there are two powerfully illuminating performances from David Yip and Peter Straker. Mr. Yip's Antony is a neat, high-speed little politician who reveals himself as a 'masker' well before that insult is hurled in his face. After the assassination, he greets the conspirators with the usual show of conciliation - which is no preparation at all for the tremendous explosion of grief-stricken hatred he releases as soon as he is alone with the corpse. The funeral oration itself is built on a thrilling curve of controlled delirium, all the more impressive given the scarcity of the mourners. Mr. Straker, beginning as a balefully subdued Cassius with the pent-up energy of a coiled spring, subsequently ascends into his own vein of passionate hysteria which connects brilliantly with the unstable essence of the character. It is also clear from the start that he regards Brutus as a liability who unfortunately has to be taken on board for political reasons. Leo Wringer's Brutus, persuasive as a gently meditative companion, has nothing like the same authority, and goes to pieces in addressing the mob. As a show it is only fitfully impressive, but it is a hopeful sign of better things to come. ~ Irving Wardle, "Plethora of divergent elements", Times, 26 Feburary 1987
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