Review: Julius Caesar

Cyril Nri and Paterson Joseph in JULIUS CAESAR
Cyril Nri and Paterson Joseph in JULIUS CAESAR
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Alhambra Theatre, Bradford

The authorship of Shakespeare’s plays has been called into question in recent years more often than a national tabloid editor to the Leveson inquiry.

I claim no great expertise, although it is pretty clear that, plagiarist he might have been, William Shakespeare really did craft the work to which he put his name. I don’t, however, remember him writing a play set in a civil war torn Africa. Fortunately Greg Doran does – it’s called Julius Caesar and he brings his vision for the play to Bradford for this week. That the RSC is in Bradford, a city that could do with the confidence that comes with high culture, is to be celebrated. That this production is so brilliant, even more so.

Doran, the Huddersfield-born recently announced new artistic director of the Royal Shakespeare Company, believed that Julius Caesar, Shakespeare’s political Roman thriller, would transfer wholesale to modern Africa. His hunch is proved correct over and over in this gripping production.

From the opening which features chanting, African rhythms and what might be loosely termed a witch-doctor/soothsayer predicting the downfall of Caesar, the setting in contemporary Africa gives the whole piece a vibrancy and immediacy that constantly underlines the relevancy of the concept. As a piece of theatre it is so...theatrical. Which is not the case far more often than you might realise.

Paterson Joseph’s Brutus and Cyril Nri’s Cassius are the pivots of the piece and Nri’s Cassius is as scared and desperate in his deception as Joseph’s Brutus is firm and solid. They stand apart from Jeffrey Kissoon’s impressive dictator Caesar and the relationships are startlingly clear. Even if everything around him was terrible, this production would be worth seeing for Ray Fearon’s Mark Antony. His is a genuinely great performance and just as he charms the citizens with his speeches, he equally holds the Bradford audience in the palm of his hand. A truly astonishing piece of acting in a thrilling production.

To Sept 29.