Review of a play at the Shakespeare festival

Stephen McGill

July 21, 2011

Essay #1

Shakespeare Festival

 

Julius Caesar

     I once heard a curious theatergoer declare that she had seen many versions of Julius Caesar. I being that of curious mind and body encouraged her to elaborate on the yarn that she was in the middle of weaving. When she continued she explained her favorite version of Julius Caesar, it began with two sides of the stage marked by a rebel side and a conspirator side. She apparently had worked on the props and found them all to be cumbersome and wildly difficult to procure. Shortly thereafter I read the play and envisioned such action unfolding before my eyes, one scene in particular at the Senate where Caesars’ life was taken intrigued me. I viewed that scene as where the plot shifted from one type of story to another. If I was to re-write the play I would elongate the conspirator’s attempts at execution and end the play with the execution itself, but that as they say is neither here nor there.

The 2011 Shakespeare Festival featured the play Julius Caesar and I was thrilled to be able to finally have it presented in front of me by professionals, but as many plays decide on choices I was bamboozled by certain choices and pleasantly surprised by other.

My first concern was audience involvement. While audience involvement in certain plays may create an environment whereas the audience is brought closer into the story a sign, hand signal, for audience involvement in a Shakespeare play can be confusing and a bit off putting. Ideally the choice for a minimalistic stage should allow the actors to breathe life into the characters, however with boisterous clapping a wall was placed between the audience and the characters.

Ideally an emotional connection would be made with the characters at hand, however with a minimalist approach to the play and jubilation in the form of audience involved clapping detached the audience from the inner turmoil that should have come with the death of Caesar herself.

The most pleasing choice that I found in the play was that of Caesar being dead yet walking around whispering to Brutus which showed the complete loyalty to Caesar (played by a woman) yet a haunted nature in regards to the inner turmoil that Brutus felt. In the text itself it read as if Brutus was hearing voices, the choice to have Caesar to walk towards and around Brutus with white chalk on her hands created an atmosphere of great shame felt internally for Brutus.

Another example that fell short for me was the choice of position of chairs. The chairs presented an ease for the actors who would have had to stand off the stage in order to interject their voices into the scenes created a distraction that focused the attention from the stage to the audience, thus creating another disconnection from the characters themselves. Ideally, the characters would have been honored on the stage by their presence being shown as special.

When characters are held on stage but have little to no reason for being on the stage it devalues that action or weight of the character creating a lowered value for the character themselves. For example the presence of Caesar after death did empower the character due to the weight of the character labeling death onto the characters that fell. The interpretation overall was lacking in real character development and did a poor job of using the characters as real people, they seemed to be caricatures of themselves, for example Brutus who is supposed to be a massive warrior was played by an overweight out of shape actor which distracted from the character written by Shakespeare.

The one character that showed a complete connection with the audience was that of Mark Antony who was respected on the stage via his personal connection with the love of Caesar and not being pulled to a chair in order to add partial presence on the stage. The particular line of “Friends, Romans, and Countrymen, lend me your ears.” (Julius Caesar Act 3 Scene 2) is arguably one of the more famous lines from the play Julius Caesar, it is spoken by Antony who opens the funeral of famous lead of the play with words that request the audience to pay attention and listen to the heartfelt words that he is to deliver. Mark Antony then famously enacts a crowd of fevered countrymen to avenge the death of their fallen hero.

One of my other major concerns for the play was that of jeans. While jeans may have played a part in later years it was not particularly popular in the time of Caesar, for me it was a major distraction.

All together the play fell short for me due to the forced jubilation and some of the attire, but overall the words were not to blame it was that of the choices made by the director.

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