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Adagio Teas
   Features  >  London Theatre Reviews

at Roundhouse


  Sam Troughton and Hannah Young/ Ph: Ellie Kurttz

In 2006 Lucy Bailey’s production of Titus Andronicus exploded once and for all the idea – or the fear – that Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre was little more than an Elizabethan theme park for tourists. With Douglas Hodge in the macho title role – this was before he went on to play the cross-dressing lead in the campest show on earth, La Cage Aux Folles – members of the audience fainted, so convincing was the relentless violence. 
Bailey once again turns on the gore. For Julius Caesar a pre-play wrestling match between the wolf–suckled mythical twins Romulus and Remus signals the brutality of the city they founded. This is a Rome forged in a violent act, stalked by enforcers wielding truncheons and ruled by a wiry, vainglorious Caesar in the form of Greg Hicks, who later in this RSC London season will return as Lear. 
Hicks, whose Caesar strikes statuesque poses designed to promote the cult of his image, gives the most coherent performance in an evening defined more by mood and place than character. 
Meanwhile, designer William Dudley’s crude if fitfully effective computer projections conjure Rome’s civilians and army for the crowd and battle scenes. They move like synchronous clones, and there is a terrifying sense of a pitiless, unthinking mob who Darrell D’Silva’s charismatic Mark Antony manipulates like putty to turn on Sam Troughton’s Brutus. 
Troughton’s is a performance of unconnected if well-executed ideas. Each part is well delivered, but as a whole makes less sense as the terrors unfold after Caesar’s assassination. Brutus' wide-eyed ambition as Cassius (John Mackay) unleashes the conspiracy is pure Macbeth. But later there is little evidence of the selfless qualities described by Antony as he stands over his enemy’s body. 
That strata of the play that warns its Elizabethan audience of the unpredictable outcome of revolt has much less power when the motive for revolution is not to make the work a better place for mankind, but a better place for one man, Brutus. 
Those lessons about the dangers of insurrection would not have been lost on the play’s Elizabethan audience at the Globe where Julius Caesar was one of the first productions to be staged. At the Roundhouse, politics takes a back seat as Bailey’s hurtling version saturates itself in the panic of mayhem and unpredictable bloody events. D’Silva’s blood-bathed Antony gets drunk on murder. It is by turns stirring and scary stuff. 
But as if Bailey sensed the need to heighten the emotional stakes of a production that is light on human spirit, the appearance of ghosts – Caesar’s, then Portia’s and then Caesar’s again – happens more often than Shakespeare felt it necessary to write. If Bailey did sense such a need, she was right, even if her remedy is a case of too little too late. 

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