From the first scene of LaBoite’s production of Julius Caesar, I was jolted into sitting up and taking notice.
A contemporary Roman rock orgy-like party ensued with powerfully deafening electronic music, lots of liquid being consumed, flicked in the air and even poured over each other.
Oh, and bare chests, lots of bare chests, with well-built abs, how could I forget.
My senses were surprised and shocked as I braced myself for a delightfully visceral rendition of Julius Caesar. Director, David Berthold’s vision focused on the dreams that plagued some of the characters throughout the play, breathing life where even the audience didn’t know what was real or what was in the head, much like the nature of conspiracy itself.
Stand out performers were Steven Rooke (pictured) whose performance as Brutus was disturbingly enchanting to watch – It’s no wonder he’s an actor in such high demand.
Thomas Larkin as the faithful Antony whose journey from mouse to a man was very satisfying to see unfold. I have to add that both famous speeches at the funeral that have become almost cringe worthy as overdone monologues were fresh once again as they were impressively executed by both Steven and Thomas. Ross Balbuziente provided a little bit of much needed comic relief as Casca.
Anna McGahan was adept in playing all three characters (Portia, Decia Brutus, and Titinia). Equally adept was Steve Toulmin who expertly transformed from Rock God (with accompanying Rock God singing voice) to Brutus’ slightly comical sleep deprived servant (with accompanying folk-like gentle voiced song). In addition to talented actor/singer, he was also the sound and music designer and created the intense and noteworthy soundtrack for the production.
The staging and lighting was efficient in execution with added wow factor towards the end of the play. Also the simple use of costuming mostly kept with the contemporary feel – subtle changes in colour to signify the equally subtle states of allegiance. However, the sometimes toga, sometimes suits, sometimes jeans did confuse me a little as to the setting. I was also a little confused with some of the actors playing multiple roles, but once I had worked out what was going, it was just another thing to keep me on my toes. Shakespeare is such a beautiful language, but let’s face it, you need the full attention of all your faculties to keep up. Unless you are like the lady sitting next to me in the audience with her iphone Shakespeare app as she read the words and sprouting her favourite parts, meanwhile another lady not too far off was saying the most famous lines before the actor on stage had the glory of saying them. Well at least we know that Shakespeare is still alive and well in the state of Queensland.
But apart from hardcore Shakespeare groupies spoiling the ending for some first timers, I thoroughly enjoyed this fresh production of Julius Ceasar – the bold direction, the atmospheric dream sequences, the edgy sound track, the talented ensemble of actors, even the lack of costuming was worth going to see on its own merit. Thank you LaBoite for bringing sexy back to Shakespeare.