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Surprising and occasionally shocking - Julius Caeser at the RSC

Published by: G.D. Mills on 25th Mar 2017 | View all blogs by G.D. Mills

Majestic collonades and a raised statue of a lion attacking a horse, a Roman symbol of elected government, form the simple, striking set for the first three acts of Angus Jackson's compelling new production. Ceaser (Andrew Woodall), tall, rangy and patrician, pumped up after triumphant battle with Pompey, looms over his adoring subjects while Brutus and Cassius mither and fret on the fringes.

In fact these two make for unlikely conspirators, more closely resembling peevish, put-upon clerks complaining of their manager’s untenable demands than senators with a taste for regicide.

James Corrigan, in what was perhaps a stab at abject resignation, instead gives us a surprisingly relaxed and matter of fact Mark Anthony as he stands over the deposed leader’s body and invites the co-conspirators to strike him down. Corrigan, rugged and charming, captures the duality of a man who must martial language as strategically as he martials his troops.

 By Act 4 Anthony and Brutus are at war and de Bella’s Lion Attacking a Horse, a symbol of nobility and justice (despite itself being unjustly pilfered by the Romans) has been removed from its plinth. The alliance between Cassius and Brutus is beginning to fracture and behind the colonnades the clouds bruise and the sky weeps blood. 

Terry King offers us a disappointingly tokenistic battle scene but there is a moment of true unanticipated horror at the end of the fighting when Lucius (Brutus’ boy servant, played endearingly by Samuel Little) is chased down and swiftly dispatched with a brutal and audible snap to the neck. There is a collective intake of breath from the audience as the young boy drops like a ragdoll to the floor.

The power of this performance lies in the principle of the phalanx, a formation in which Roman soldiers interlocked their shields: no one performance stands out, but it holds together by the strength of its parts.

See this production now, visit




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