Wednesday, March 12, 2008

"Caesar" - March 2008

We've got a good track record with GCNS productions so I figured it was worth squeezing an afternoon performance into what's been a very busy week. But what I didn't realise was that this wasn't quite going to be the "Julius Caesar" that Shakespeare had in mind as his play had been adapted by Thomas Gemmell (whose work with Theatrefusion we had previously enjoyed). While much of the dialogue remains, the plot is tweaked and the scheming has been relocated to a US Presidential style setting. And it works very, very well (think 24 without Jack Bauer to save the day).

In addition to the change of setting, we have a number of film clips as part of the production - some as if security footage, others diary style or even documentary style. The inclusion of video in theatrical productions is always a risky one but here it's used to add to the production and doesn't act as a distraction.

The other instantly noticeable change is that Cassius is female, and it makes for a hugely interesting dynamic between her and Brutus. Jamielee McPherson makes her Cassius wonderfully engaging and charismatic - it's not difficult to see how persuasive she can be. McPherson seems perfectly comfortable on the stage and makes the complex dialogue clear and meaningful, and is always acting.

David McNay's Brutus is a very restrained and considered performance with every movement counting while Sharon Rooney does an immense job portraying his distraught wife Portia. Chris Kennedy makes the most of his surprisingly brief role as Caeser and Brendan Breslin makes Mark Antony's grief believable. But this is an ensemble piece and the whole cast can be pleased with their performances - they all handle the complex dialogue well and manage to convey the meanings rather than merely spitting out the words. My one quibble is that at times the cast have to contend with a noisy heater/fan/air-con and they could do with taking it into account and raising the levels of their vocals when required.

Lastly, "Caeser" is a sophisticated and complex work, and I'm not entirely sure it's suitable for a performance such as this. Not that it was a problem for the talented cast, but for a student performance with an audience of mainly friends/family it won't always get an audience who will appreciate it as much as it should.