Arts & Entertainment

STC Transforms Shakespeare’s ‘Julius Caesar’ For Modern Times

Photo: Daniel Boud

If you see no other play before the end of the year you must see the STC’s production of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar!

This great play presents a dramatic realisation of power and the corruption of power on both a personal and political level,and is just about as perfect in its construction as it can be.

It builds the tension to a climax in the betrayal and murder of Caesar, and provides a denouement describing the violent power struggle that follows as the venal and fraudulent desires of the conspirators are exposed.

Given this, why would anyone want to tamper with it?

I’ll tell you why.

Because the director saw the possibility of relating the play to modern times.

The play is the first to be performed at the newly renovated Wharf 1 theatre, which has been converted to theatre in the round – more than a nod to Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre.

In the middle of the stage is light cube about one and a half meters in diameter and a metre high.

Just three actors – Geraldine Hakewill (Casca and Mark Antony), Ewen Leslie (Caesar and Cassius) and Zahra Newman (Brutus) – take on the bloody tragedy of Julius Caesar in this production.

“All three are so smart, so quick, so playful, and all of them possess the alacrity of mind required to seamlessly shapeshift between characters – which is no mean feat,” Williams says.

And right from the get-go, we are alerted to the role of contemporary social media as each actor bears a smart phone that records their own and others’ speeches which are live fedto the cube.

As the characters of Shakespeare’s play reveal themselves through a dramatic tension that builds inexorably to their downfall, Mark Antony’s speech arrives like a bombshell, shockingly the audience into realising the contemporary significance of Shakespeare’s play.

We recognise the familiar phrases Mark Antony (a white-suited and high-heeled Hakewill) spits out in his rhetoric – “drain the swamp,” “we will decide who comes to this country and the circumstances in which they come,” (recognise that one?) and our current Prime Minister’s, “If you have a go you get a go.”

Williams says, “Despite being created centuries ago, Shakespeare’s characters can be read as haunting encapsulations of the psychology of our times”.

Although politics is not as bloody in contemporary Australia as in ancient Rome, it is certainly just as ruthless as this fabulous production suggests.

Until Dec 23. Wharf 1 Theatre, Dawes Point. $15-$96+b.f. Tickets & Info: www.sydneytheatre.com.au

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