Theatre: Too little insurrection


A FEW years ago, the great German director Peter Stein brought across 200 extras to form the crowd in his production of Julius Caesar at the Edinburgh Festival.

In his new all-male staging of the play at Shakespeare's Globe, Mark Rylance does not have to go to such costly lengths to create this crucial presence. Indeed, with a courtyard full of groundlings at whom Brutus and Mark Antony can direct their political make-or-break funeral orations, you could say the situation is amusingly reversed - a large proportion of the audience here is paying for the privilege of impersonating the throng that rhetorical skill so easily turns into a mob.

Julius Caesar was one of the first Shakespeare plays to be staged in the newly built Globe precisely 400 years ago (a Swiss doctor, Thomas Platter, wrote approvingly of a performance in "the straw-thatched house" on the south bank of the Thames), so it makes a fitting start to what is being billed as an "anniversary season".

Certainly, the piece, "in theory, at least", is uncommonly well-suited to the space. Rylance's production follows the practice of having the Romans dressed in contemporary Elizabethan garb (ruffs et al) with antique adjustments, like the togas that are tied over this attire in the assassination scene. Here, though, there is a triple time-frame effect, for the voluble cast members planted around the audience are camouflaged in present-day mufti, with reversed baseball caps etc.

The inn-yard intimacy of the Globe's architecture has, in the past, encouraged a potentially dangerous atmosphere of ugly partisanship. Ironically, there was precious little sense of mob danger at the first night of Caesar. While the plants from the cast, aroused by the sentimental pitch from Mark Lewis-Jones's ranting, unshaded Antony, urged torchings and insurrection, the punters stood by as phlegmatic as statues, apart from when switching off their mobile phones or wandering back with refreshments.

Perhaps they were overcome by embarrassment at being directly recruited. The heckling was eerie only by its complete absence. Meanwhile, the audience's representatives on stage were busy kicking Cinna the poet to death.

The Elizabethan dress brings home to you what a live and touchy issue the play's subject - the ethics of tyrannicide - must have been for the original audiences. The scene where the conspirators gather in Brutus's orchard put you in mind of The Gunpowder Plot.

But in other respects, this is a decent rather than an exciting Julius Caesar. Richard Bremmer makes a mordant impression as a suitably lean and gloweringly resentful Cassius, and Danny Sapani radiates a naive and self-deceived honourableness as a youthful Brutus. It would be good, though, to see a production at the Globe that had had the attention of a top-league director.

Paul Taylor

To 21 September, 0171-401 9919. A version of this review appeared in later editions of yesterday's paper

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

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
Arts and Entertainment

Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites

Arts and Entertainment
Frances O'Connor and James Nesbitt in 'The Missing'

TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations

Arts and Entertainment
Joey Essex will be hitting the slopes for series two of The Jump


Who is taking the plunge?
Arts and Entertainment
Katy Perry as an Ancient Egyptian princess in her latest music video for 'Dark Horse'

Arts and Entertainment
Dame Judi Dench, as M in Skyfall

Arts and Entertainment
Morrissey, 1988

Arts and Entertainment
William Pooley from Suffolk is flying out to Free Town, Sierra Leone, to continue working in health centres to fight Ebola after surviving the disease himself

Arts and Entertainment
The Newsroom creator Aaron Sorkin

Arts and Entertainment
Matt Berry (centre), the star of Channel 4 sitcom 'Toast of London'

TVA disappointingly dull denouement
Arts and Entertainment
Tales from the cryptanalyst: Benedict Cumberbatch in 'The Imitation Game'

Arts and Entertainment
Pixie Lott has been voted off Strictly Come Dancing 2014

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

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

    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
    Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

    Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

    As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
    The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

    The Interview movie review

    You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
    Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

    How podcasts became mainstream

    People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
    Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

    Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

    Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
    Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

    A memorable year for science – if not for mice

    The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
    Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

    Christmas cocktails to make you merry

    Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
    5 best activity trackers

    Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

    Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
    Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

    Paul Scholes column

    It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
    Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

    Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

    Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
    Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

    Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

    2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

    Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

    The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
    Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

    Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

    The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
    Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

    The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

    Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas