The theater directors treat Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar” either as a historical record of events that took place in Rome in the 1st century BC or they modernize the play to use it as a commentary on some contemporary political issues. In both approaches, the intended impact of the play is distorted. Shakespeare’s plays were structured in such a way that there is no need for any form of modernization to make them relevant to our present situation. As long as the director faithfully follows the original text and respects the play’s setting, the play will carry its magic and deliver its intended impact. Only those who are incapable of grasping the play’s meaning will attempt to innovate or modernize the play.
The RSC’s production of “Julius Caesar” directed by Angus Jackson belongs to the first category. It attempts to present the play as an historical record of the events that greatly affected the Roman Republic. Because of this traditional approach, some critics declared that this production was lacking “imagination” or “innovation.” But it is this lack of imagination and innovation that is needed if the audience is to comprehend Shakespeare’s message. But staying with the original setting of the play is only the first step. The second step is more challenging because it requires stripping off all sorts of preconceived ideas and biases about the play. The director is required to trust Shakespeare’s words, disconnect from the influence of the so-called Shakespearean experts’ opinions, and follow his unbiased intuition. Only then may he get closer to the true meaning of the play. The most important thing of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar is the fact that Caesar is fully aware of his coming assassination. It would be impossible for Shakespeare’s Caesar not to know about the intention of his companions: from the very beginning Caesar knows about the preparation for his assassination and he knows who his assassins are. (This fact was easily unmasked by inmates of an Italian prison who staged the performance of “Julius Caesar”; their performance was documented by Paolo Taviani’s movie “Caesar Must Die”). As soon as this key factor is perceived and passed to the actor playing the role of Caesar, all other pieces fall into place. If this factor is not recognized, then the character of Julius Caesar has to be turned into a bombastic fool in order to make any sense of the play. And this is the case of Angus Jackson’s production. It is very hard to watch Andrew Woodall who tries his best to make any sense of the painfully foolish actions of Caesar. (The same sort of misunderstanding of the character of Octavius has ruined the parallel RSC’s production of “Antony and Cleopatra”). Why did not Caesar prevent his assassination? Why did he insist that “unassailable holds on his rank” just a moment before he was killed? What sort of king did Caesar intend to be? These are the questions that the audience is supposed to ask themselves when leaving the theater. As always, Shakespeare provided the answers in other plays of his narrative.
It looks like we will have to wait a bit longer to have the opportunity to experience “Julius Caesar” with its originally intended impact.
- Format: NTSC
- Language: English
- Region: All Regions
- Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
- Number of discs: 1
- Studio: Naxos Deutschland Musik & Video Vertriebs-GmbH / Poing
- DVD Release Date: 27 April 2018
- Run Time: 173 minutes
- Average Customer Review: Be the first to review this item
- ASIN: B07B16NSK7
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- #37767 in Movies (Movies & TV)