Bridge Theatre, London – until 15 April 2018
Broadcast live on NT Live on 22 March
There is something so powerful about being part of the crowd watching this gripping and wonderfully staged production of Shakespeare’s play – despite the rough handling by those in security jackets yelling at people to move back as the stage changes position.
The action begins after Caesar’s triumphant return to Rome, leading to gig-like celebrations in the streets in which those in the pit are a part of, building up the anticipation nicely as well as giving the production a great energy from the very start.
What then follows is a beautifully built up story of betrayal, jealousy and civil war that is convincingly performed by a stellar cast and imaginatively staged thanks to Bunny Christie’s brilliant set design.
As Brutus and Cassius begin to put together their plot to bring down Caesar, there is a subtle change in the mood and atmosphere. Bruno Poet’s striking lighting highlights the characters well and Nick Powell’s subtle but menacing music makes a strong impact throughout.
Nicholas Hytner’s production is gripping and intense throughout but there is also some lovely moments of humour that gives the audience a break from the tension for a while. He has also managed to bring out the best out of his cast – with all of the main ensemble delivering powerful and charismatic performances.
Michelle Fairley in particular is strong and convincing as Cassius, as she manipulates Brutus to her way of thinking that bringing down Caesar is the way forward for a better future for the people.
It is a dynamic performance in which it is hard to tear your eyes away from. Equally strong is Adjoa Andoh as Casca whose strong personality and conviction is again mesmerising to watch as things begin to unfold.
Meanwhile, Ben Whishaw also delivers a memorable performance as Brutus – really showcasing the character’s inner torment, particularly in the aftermath of Caesar’s assassination which is almost painful to watch (in a good way). Meanwhile, David Morrissey has plenty of power and conviction in his portrayal of Mark Antony to ensure that audience is completely mesmerised during Antony’s speech at Caesar’s funeral.
But the real star of the show is the fantastic set design. Changing shape, size and height according to each scene, it allows the promenade audience to feel completely involved with proceedings from beginning to end – particularly during the civil war scenes at the climax of the production. It has to be said though – if you are considering purchasing one of these tickets be prepared for a lot of pushing shoving around that is quite uncomfortable at times and those involved with moving the audience around need to be a lot less abrupt as it could lead to an accident.
Aside from this however, this is a mesmerising production that captures and holds the audience’s attention (no matter where you sit or stand) to great effect that the (just over) two hours passes quickly and powerfully. Well worth a visit to the Bridge Theatre.