Cambridge Arts Theatre, Cambridge – until Sun 31st July 2022
Reviewed by Steph Lott
The Globe Theatre’s production of William Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar begins with the news that Julius Caesar has defeated Pompey. Right from the start, the audience are required to be part of the action as we are the commoners who are celebrating Julius Caesar’s triumphant return. I thought the beginning sequence, led by Omar Bynon interacting with the audience was an ingenious way to introduce the setting of the play. He had a charming energy that was infectious and charming.
Shakespeare’s epic tale of murderous conspiracy, cunning rhetoric and a divisive struggle for control has never seemed more relevant than now, troubled as we are by untrustworthy politicians.
There will be some however who will be critical of this updated version of Julius Caesar. But I’m not one of them. Shakespeare can be off-putting to those who don’t recognise themselves in the plots or the characters. However I think this production addresses that. Genders of characters have been changed. There is a same sex marriage. The script has been altered to reflect this. I think the effect of those changes is to make this production more accessible, more relevant, to an audience who otherwise may not feel Shakespeare is for them. And that is alright by me. My only comment is that I feel further work should have been done on the script to fully incorporate the necessary changes in gender. There are mentions of “men” left in that are no longer appropriate given the characters are now female.
Fearing for their beloved Rome, Cassius and Brutus, the main conspirators, are now played as and by women. Cassius is played by Charlotte Bate, who convincingly portrays Cassius’ descent from initial firm intention to despair as the conspiracy falls apart.
Brutus is played by Anna Crichlow. She gave a rich performance as the earnest and ultimately troubled co-conspirator.
Both of the above held the stage and gave standout performances robust enough to allow us to believe that it was two women leading this conspiracy which ended in murder.
I was impressed by this cast of eight who managed to carry off a complicated performance with many more than eight roles! Special mention must be made of Omar Bynon and Cash Holland. They performed a multiple of more minor roles, in different clothes and with different voices, and it was never confusing!
If you prefer your Shakespeare to be more traditional, then this production may not be for you. However, if you would like to see how this story might be, seen through a slightly different lens then I would recommend that you go and see it.