Julius Caesar, Roundhouse, London

3.00

Friends, Romans, and thugs

Lucy Bailey's determinedly graphic account of Julius Caesar, now transferred from Stratford to London's Roundhouse, begins with an episode that Shakespeare somehow forgot to include. Overshadowed by a huge statue of the she-wolf that suckled them, the adult Romulus and Remus fight to the death like a pair of rabid animals. We're left in no doubt that Rome's very foundations are steeped in fratricidal blood and this prequel sets the tone for a production that energetically rubs your face in the gore of internecine violence.

Mocking Brutus's high-minded need to believe that the conspirators will be "sacrificers, but not butchers", the assassination scene is a protracted, messy shambles, a mixture of nightmare and farce as Greg Hicks's Caesar clings on to the bitter end under a frenzy of stabbing. In the low-life parody of this, the street gang that mistakenly lynches Cinna the Poet rips out the innocent man's heart. There's a pointed moment when Mark Antony, picking up a severed head from the battlefield, casually tosses it as though it were no more than a rugby ball at Octavius Caesar – a detail that seems to sum up the production's rueful take on the dehumanising cost of civil strife.

There's certainly no danger here that the play will be accused of offering a drily intellectual debate about how the democratic process should deal with potential tyranny or an over-academic study of political self-deception. If anything, this staging veers too far to the opposite extreme and I'd argue that it is itself internally divided in terms of technique. The aim is evidently to maximise our awareness of the visceral nature of the drama but the flesh-and-blood presence of the citizens and soldiery seems to me to be drained, rather than reinforced, by the constant use of Bill Dudley's elaborate videos in which the actors have been filmed and digitally multiplied in order to create the illusion of vast crowds.

Projected on to six screens, these hordes have a fatally phantasmal, floating feel and their gestures often look insufficiently connected to what is actually happening on stage; Darrell D'Silva's rabble-rousing wizardry as Antony is diminished, instead of intensified, by the badly timed raised fists of the on-screen wraith-like mob and the kitsch spectacle of the Capitol boiling in lurid CGI flames.

Some rather colourless performances further weaken a sense of subtle, living immediacy. Sam Troughton plays Brutus as a naive, well-meaning, occasionally febrile liberal, but underplays the self-serving righteousness and systematic doublethink of this brainy, chronic bungler. Greg Hicks, though, finds a streak of grim camp comedy in Caesar's here somewhat arch and petty-seeming attempts to conceal encroaching frailty behind a grandiose public image. Bailey brings on his bloody ghost a second time at the end to pre-empt Brutus's suicide by stabbing him first. But Brutus is all too aware that his death represents Caesar's long-term revenge, so this supposedly ironic adjustment, like much else in the production, feels at once striking and excessive.

To 5 February (0844 482 8008)

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Feeling all at sea: Barbara's 18-year-old son came under the influence of a Canadian libertarian preacher – and she had to fight to win him back
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Living the high life: Anne Robinson enjoys some skip-surfed soup
TV review
Arts and Entertainment

Great British Bake Off
Arts and Entertainment
Doctor Who and Missy in the Doctor Who series 8 finale

TV
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Chvrches lead singer Lauren Mayberry in the band's new video 'Leave a Trace'

music
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Home on the raunch: George Bisset (Aneurin Barnard), Lady Seymour Worsley (Natalie Dormer) and Richard Worsley (Shaun Evans)

TV review
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Strictly Come Dancing was watched by 6.9m viewers

Strictly
Arts and Entertainment
NWA biopic Straight Outta Compton

film
Arts and Entertainment
Natalie Dormer as Margaery Tyrell and Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones

Game of Thrones
Arts and Entertainment
New book 'The Rabbit Who Wants To Fall Asleep' by Carl-Johan Forssen Ehrlin

books
Arts and Entertainment
Calvi is not afraid of exploring the deep stuff: loneliness, anxiety, identity, reinvention
music
Arts and Entertainment
Edinburgh solo performers Neil James and Jessica Sherr
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
If a deal to buy tBeats, founded by hip-hop star Dr Dre (pictured) and music producer Jimmy Iovine went through, it would be Apple’s biggest ever acquisition

album review
Arts and Entertainment
Paloma Faith is joining The Voice as a new coach

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Dowton Abbey has been pulling in 'telly tourists', who are visiting Highclere House in Berkshire

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Patriot games: Vic Reeves featured in ‘Very British Problems’
TV review
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

    How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

    Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
    Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

    'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

    In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
    Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

    The Arab Spring reversed

    Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
    King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

    Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

    Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
    Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

    Who is Oliver Bonas?

    It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
    Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

    Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

    However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
    60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

    60 years of Scalextric

    Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
    Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

    Why are we addicted to theme parks?

    Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
    Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

    Iran is opening up again to tourists

    After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
    10 best PS4 games

    10 best PS4 games

    Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
    Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

    Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

    Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
    Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

    ‘Can we really just turn away?’

    Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
    Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

    Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

    ... and not just because of Isis vandalism
    Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

    Girl on a Plane

    An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
    Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

    Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

    The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent