Essential Theatre. Holden Street Theatres. 2 Mar 2017
This snappy eighty minute Julius Caesar is brought to you by Essential Theatre - the same mob that have performed their excellent outdoor productions from their Shakespeare in the Vines program at Coriole and Sevenhill wineries for more than a decade. Having seen and reviewed a few of those, I knew I was in for another goodie, and I was not disappointed.
Everyone on and behind the stage - save Justin Gardam who contributed a fetching soundtrack - are women. Women who are pissed off that only one in four roles in Shakespeare are for females, and traditionally even those were played by men. Since Sophie Lampel and Amanda LaBonte run the company, they're gonna do it their way. And it worked a treat. Although I never got over the "her" pronouns and possessives instead of "his" and "him," the references to themselves as girls instead of men (why didn't they use women?), and Caesar potentially being a queen instead of a king, I loved the emotional values: sensually confusing when the "men" were feminine, amusing when they were women pretending to be men, and powerful when they presented sturdy androgynous characters.
Tick, tick, tick. Time is running out on Caesar and later, on the assassins. The narrative hewn out of the original is urgent and full of menace. Whispers in the corridors of power, collaborators regrouping and mutually bolstering their courage, the excitement of the kill itself, and the confusion over the change of leadership definitely reminded me of Australian federal politics since the Rudd dump of 2010. Peak emotional moments were complemented by Gardam's soundscape, effective lighting and a bit of theatrical magic. They had me in such a state that the murder of Caesar took my breath away.
Performances were not all up to the same standard, but the regal bearing of Helen Hopkins's Caesar convinced me from the get go, and Alex Aldrich played the chilling duplicity of Casca with a comical bent that invited close watching. Costumes designed by Aldrich looked like Salvation Army uniforms that would be at home in a Star Trek episode. Having your apron over your back instead of your front makes for a nifty cape.
I was enthralled with director Fleur Kilpatrick's tight, earnest, and most of all, intimate production of extreme clarity and crispness, with a genre twist. Bravo!
When: 28 Feb to 4 Mar
Where: Holden Street Theatres